Nigeria, the Republic of Benin and Niger, have established a joint border patrol team comprising the Police, Customs, Immigration of the tripartite countries to recommend a date for the reopening of the borders.
The three countries agreed in a resolution on Thursday in Abuja at the end of the Tripartite Anti-Smuggling Committee Meeting of Nigeria, Benin and Niger. Reading the communiqué at the end of the meeting, Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, said the meeting took note of all concerns raised and agreed to establish a monitoring and evaluating committee of the three countries.
Onyeams said that the committee will comprise of Ministers of Finance, Trade, Foreign Affairs, Customs, Immigration and National Security Adviser. He said that the Committee is with a mandate to ensure actions that would facilitate and enhance the suppression of smuggled goods and other related matters.
“The meeting agreed that the monitoring and evaluation committee will ensure the full implementation of the adopted mandate of the Joint Anti-Smuggling Human Trafficking Committee. “Nigeria, Benin also agreed on the establishment of trade facilitation committee among the three countries, comprising of Ministers of Finance and Trade.
“To promote intra-regional trade among the three countries, as well as put in place, sanctions against smuggling of goods. “The governments agreed to ensure persons from the three countries to enter/exit each other’s state with valid ECOWAS recognised travel documents through recongnised controlled posts.
“Establishment of Joint Border Patrol Team comprising the Police, Customs, Immigration of the three countries. “The team is to hold its first meeting in Abuja from Nov. 25 to Nov. 27, 2019. “The patrol team is to agree on the modality to carry out its operation and recommend a date for the opening of the borders,” Onyeama said.
On the anti-smuggling issues, Onyeama earlier said the meeting deliberated on the myriad of challenges faced by the three countries. Onyeama added that more importantly, the meeting dwelt on the areas of smuggling of goods and services that were not approved under the Protocols on ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme.
He said that the meeting also proffered to address issues as regards Free Movement of Persons without valid ECOWAS travel documents, as well as plethora of illegal warehouses along the border corridors.
“In this regard, the meeting acknowledged smuggling of goods, as well as human trafficking as collective violation of ECOWAS Protocols on ETLS and Free Movement. “That pose severe ecnonomic and security threats to intra-regional trade and free movement,” Onyeama also said.
Onyeama said that Niger and Benin Republic however appealed for the reopening of the land borders. Responding to the attack of Nigerian traders in Ghana, Onyeama said that the Nigerian High Commission was engaging with the Ghanaian government and the leadership of the Nigerian traders in Accra.
Onyeama said that there was however no threat to the physical safety of Nigerian traders in Ghana, adding that the tripartite meeting have agreed on modalities for the way forward.