Written by Oluwakemi Dauda, Lagos; Nsa Gill, Calabar, Adamu Suleiman, Sokoto and the Blessing of Olaif, Abuja
The land borders ordered by President Muhammad Bukhari to reopen last week are still closed to the movement of goods, The Nation he noticed.
The borders were closed on August 20, 2019, in order to stop the entry of illegal weapons into the country.
However, the movement of people was observed at the borders in – Seme (state of Lagos), Illela (Sokoto),
Maigatari (Jigawa) and Mfum (Cross River) – four ordered to reopen “immediately”. The remaining land borders are due to open next week.
Deputy Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), dr. Abubakar Dahaltu said “four borders are now open”.
Asked when they were open, Dalhatu said “Ever since the federal government gave the directive.”
But another senior customs official, who asked not to be named because he could not speak officially, said the reopening of the borders would “follow official communication. It will not be on the day the statement is made,”
The Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) said compliance with the president’s directives was unconscious.
Sources at Seme Customs Area Command and the Lagos State Chapter of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) said the fact that there was no movement of goods at the post office meant the border was not open.
A customs source added that NCS Comptroller General Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd.) Had been summoned to Abuja to work out modalities for a complete reopening of the borders.
The chairman of the ANCLA chapter in the state of Lagos, Bisiriyu Hussein, said, “The customs command is waiting for a directive from headquarters to start doing our legitimate business.”
The importer, Ayuba Ibrahim, said they were not happy with the NCS’s refusal at the Seed Post Office “to allow us to bring their goods into the country since the president ordered the reopening of the borders.”
A top immigration official who said he was not anonymous said only people with international passports needed to cross the border.
He explained that the decision was “to reduce the number of foreigners entering the country in this era of the second wave of COVID-19”.
The policeman said: “Although the border may not start with 100 percent capacity until the beginning of next year, some foreigners who are allowed to enter the country are those who have valid international passports. “We’re doing this for fear of COVID-19.”
In Seme, a Joint Border Patrol Team (JBPT) is still in place to enforce movement restrictions during the 16-month closure.
JBPT operatives were also seen at the Owode and Gbaji junction. Some of them maintained several checkpoints along the Badagry-Seme highway.
A member of the team said that Abuja did not order the working group to be disbanded.
In Mfum, a trader who gave his name simply as Okafor, confirmed that activities are still at very low levels because the border is not fully open to “entry and exit of goods”.
He stated that some security agents at the post office bordering Nigeria and Cameroon were blackmailing traders who hurried there in hopes of moving their goods.
He said: “The local government officials are used to the money they earned during the lock, and now nothing has changed with the alleged reopening. Merchants and businessmen part with a huge amount before crossing the border. “