Yesterday, the comptroller-general of the Nigeria Customs Service Hameed Ali announced the total closure of the borders. He said all goods whether illicit or non- illicit will not be allowed to come into the country.
Major Nigerian Newspapers have more on this story:
Guardian Newspaper: How economy may suffer under total border closure
Stakeholders yesterday warned the Federal Government that the complete closure of the nation’s land borders portends danger to the economy. The caution came after yesterday’s announcement by Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Hameed Ali that all categories of goods would no longer be allowed to pass through the borders.
At a joint news conference with his Nigeria Immigration Service counterpart, Mohammed Babandede, in Abuja, Ali said: “For now, all goods, whether illicit or non-illicit, are banned from going and coming (sic) into Nigeria. Let me add that for the avoidance of doubt, we included all goods because all goods can equally come through our seaports.” The Guardian learnt that almost all the scanning machines at the nation’s seaports are currently malfunctioning, with customs officials adopting 100 per cent manual inspection of cargoes.
He said: “We hope that by the time we get to the end of this exercise, we would have exactly, between us and our neighbours, agreed on the type of goods that should enter and exit our country. “For now, all import and export of cargoes from the land borders are banned, until there is an agreement with the neighbouring countries on the kind of goods traded with Nigeria. “For that reason, we have deemed it necessary, for now, that importers of such goods should go through our controlled borders where we have scanners to verify the kind of goods.”
Ali explained that although the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol permits free movement of people, security must be prioritised. “We want to protect our nation. We want to make sure that our people are protected. You must be alive and well to begin to ask for your rights. Your rights come when you are well and alive. “Go and ask the people in Maiduguri when Boko Haram was harassing their lives. The only question was survival. There was no question of right. This time, Nigeria must survive first before we begin to ask for our rights,” the customs boss said. It was learnt that Niger Republic has banned the export of rice to Nigeria following the closure. Ali confirmed this, saying: “As a result, Niger Republic has already circulated an order banning the exportation of rice in any form to Nigeria.”
But Lucky Amiwero, National President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), said that by the provisions of Section 15 of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA), the customs boss does not have the power to issue a declaration on the restriction of the border. “They are supposed to have engaged in mutual administrative assistance. Many countries are into that, and Nigeria is a signatory to that agreement. This would enable them to curtail the problems administratively…issues like smuggling, cross border crime and other customs matters. “Nigeria, as a big brother, is supposed to have interfaced with other countries – with Benin Republic, Niger and others because they are all signatories.
They are expected to go into negotiation. But if there is any disagreement in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), then the border could be closed. But rushing to close the border this way is dangerous to the economy,” he said. Amiwero noted further that the restriction contradicts the continental trade protocols signed by Nigeria. According to him, “In the ECOWAS protocol is the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, among others, which are being jeopardised as the case is.”
Also, Increase Uche, President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), described the policy as ill-timed and of great danger to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). He said while Buhari’s security advisers might have genuine concerns, the “unfortunate” decision is coming at a time Nigeria had just signed the AfCTA agreement. According to him, the measure would make investors view the nation as “unserious” and as a place where a stable environment is not guaranteed. “As we speak, there was a global body that was planning an international conference in Nigeria, trying to drag multinational companies to the conference. But they have changed the venue to Ghana. That is one of the disadvantages, when you take such actions suddenly. You will impede programmes that are aimed at boosting the economy.”
He warned that the action would endanger all trade agreements and contracts sealed by many parties on trans-border business transactions. Traders and transporters will also suffer, he said. According to him, the disadvantages far outweigh any advantages. Government should therefore retrace its steps. “The critical area we need to be careful with is not to drive out investors. If there is no creditability in what we are doing, it will affect the FDIs that are coming into the country. The action will also affect trade at Yuletide. Government should go back to the drawing book and initiate policies that would benefit Nigerians and the economy, rather than this fire brigade approach,” he said.
Similarly, a youth group, Yoruba Socio-cultural Association, in Ibadan yesterday issued a statement condemning the closure of the borders. It said the current move by the Federal Government “to curb insecurity and boost local products is horrific.” It also warned that more than a million people could become jobless as a result of the policy. Signed by National President Olalekan Hammed, the statement said: “The agricultural sector must be viable enough for local consumption before border closure could be done reasonably, if not, inflation will continue unendingly.”
But Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Sabo Nanono yesterday maintained that Nigeria is not in jeopardy of a food crisis. “I think we are producing enough to feed ourselves. I think there is no hunger in Nigeria. There could be inconveniences. When people talk about hunger in this government I just laugh,” he said at a media briefing to mark World Food Day in Abuja. He added: “That’s the basis for the closure of the border. And I think Nigeria tried to make these neighbouring countries understand our predicament but to no avail. So long as these countries bordering us will not respect Nigeria’s stand on food importation, the borders will remain closed.”
Sun Newspaper: Customs bans import, export of all goods through borders
The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) has placed total ban on import and export of all goods through the land borders until neighbouring countries agree with Nigeria on goods that can enter and exit the country. This is coming on the heels of the seizure of N1.4 billion worth of goods since August 20 when NCS and other security agencies partially closed the land borders.
According to its Comptroller General, Hameed Ali, who stated this Monday at a press briefing in Abuja, goods can only enter the country through the air and sea ports for now where they can undergo thorough scanning and certified fit for consumption. Ali added that the measure would enable security agencies scan the goods entering the country.
His words: “We hope that by the time we get to the end of this exercise, we would have agreed with our neighbours on the type of goods that should enter and exit our country. For now, all goods, whether illicit or non-illicit, are banned from going and coming into Nigeria. Let me add that for the avoidance of doubt that we included all goods because all goods can equally come through our seaports. “For that reason, we have deemed it necessary for now that importers of such goods should go through our controlled borders where we have scanners to verify the kind of goods and how healthy to our people.”
He explained that, despite the rights for movement of persons under the enabling ECOWAS protocols, there should be primacy of security over such rights. Ali, who was asked whether the Federal Government had not breached the rights of the citizenry to movement and international trade, said: “When it comes to security, all laws take back seat. “We want to secure our nation, we want to make sure that our people are protected. You must be alive and well for you to begin to ask for your rights. Your rights come when you are well and alive. “Go and ask the people in Maiduguri where Boko Haram was harassing their lives, the only question was survival, there is no question of right. This time, Nigeria must survive first before we begin to ask for our rights.”
Ali also disclosed that goods worth N1.4 billion have been seized since NCS and other security agencies partially closed the borders in an operation, code-named Exercise Swift Response, launched on August 20. The operation has also led to the deportation of some Pakistanis and South Koreans, just as 146 illegal immigrants have been arrested because their presence in the country is inimical to its socio-economic well being.
The Customs boss explained that 317 smugglers have been arrested, adding that 21,071 bags of 50kg parboiled rice have been impounded. Other items seized were 190 vehicles, 891 drums of petrol, 2,665 Jerry cans of vegetable oil, 66,000 litre of vegetable oil, 133 motorcycles, 131 bags of NPK fertilizers used for making explosives, among others. According to him, the partial border closure affects all goods, adding that anyone who hitherto imported and exported legitimate goods can do same via seaports and other manned outlets for now. He foreclosed any plans to reopen the borders anytime soon, adding that diplomatic engagements were ongoing with neighbouring countries on how to comply with established trade protocols to end the exercise.
Punch Newspaper: Fresh crisis in Buhari’s home, Aisha battles Daura family
A fresh crisis on Monday erupted at President Muhammadu Buhari’s home as his wife, Aisha, battled the family of Mamman Daura, the President’s nephew. Daura’s daughter, Fatima, in an interview with the BBC Hausa Service on Monday owned up to a video shot at the Presidential Villa. In the video, the President’s wife, was heard asking questions and making comments about being locked out of a room and demanding that some people should pack their belongings and leave the apartment.
The First Lady and Fatima, in separate interviews with the BBC Hausa Service shed light on the video, which went viral on Friday. Fatima in the interview said she shot the video with her phone “in case something happens.” On her part, the President’s wife confirmed in a 25-second voice clip on the BBC Hausa Service website that she was the person in the video in question. She accused Fatima of recording the incident while the security detail did nothing because the culprit was Mamman Daura’s daughter.
The first lady said, “I was the one in the video, those behind me were the security personnel given to protect me, but Mamman Daura’s daughter, Fatima, shot the video in the presence of security officials and everybody. She was laughing at me because my husband said they should vacate the place for my son to occupy. “I wanted to pass through that door to go into a store but they closed the door. I took an alternative route but the door was still locked.” But in her own account, Fatima said she recorded the incident to provide proof for her parents and security officials in an event “something happens.” She noted that she was surprised by the President’s wife’s outbursts during the incident.
In a 27-second audio clip also posted on the BBC Hausa Service website, Fatima said, “Her comments frightened me. She was hurling insults and shouting that she had never seen anything like it. “I went back and took my (mobile) phone because if you went and said she acted the way she did, nobody would believe you (without evidence). “She was making a lot of noise saying she was being oppressed. I filmed the encounter to show our parents and security officials for them to see in case something happens. From the way she was screaming, I even thought she would pick up something to hit us or something like that.”
In a written excerpt of the interview also pasted on the website, Fatima was quoted as giving a background to the crisis. According to her, the face-off happened within a building within the Villa called the Glass House. Adding that it was one out of several apartments within the villa, she said the President gave her father the building when he was elected as President in his first term. After describing how close her father and the President are, she said, “Our father stayed there for three years until when the President’s son, Yusuf, had an accident and went to Germany for treatment. “When he returned, the President told our father to move out of that apartment to go to another apartment called “House 8” also within the villa; that Yusuf was going to stay to continue with his treatment in the Glass House.”
The Glass House where Mamman Daura and his family were living is nearer to where Aisha Buhari lives. She further explained that her parents were out of Nigeria when all these happened but her father gave instructions that she and her elder sister should go on a Saturday to move their belongings following the President’s instructions.
She further explained that they were putting their things together when all of a sudden, she heard noises from outside. Fatima was quoted as saying, “I was in an inner room while my sister was in an outer one which is nearer to the main entrance to the apartment.” She said the outer door was locked with a key which she said was the usual practice when they were indoors. “When Aisha came and found the door was locked, ‘she used an iron chair to force the door open.” This, she explained, was why she decided to record the incident so as to have proof of what transpired.
Meanwhile, the video of Mamman Daura’s daughter is currently undergoing investigation, The PUNCH learnt last night. A Presidency source told one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity that the idea behind the investigation was to first ascertain if indeed she was the one who said all that had been attributed to her. “What we can say at the moment is that the video is undergoing investigation to ascertain if indeed the lady in question was the one who spoke. That process is on,” the source said.
The source added that since Fatima claimed in the video that she had more videos on the encounter to release, it was also better that the Presidency waited for the release of the remaining videos and then addressed them at once. “The lady in question said she has more of such videos to release to the public. I think it is logical that we wait for her to release the remaining ones because the issues are taken at once,” he added. Faulting Fatima, another Presidency source said, “The intent of the video was mischief. Why did she not show her own side. She did not show her part in the drama where the door was locked against the first lady to deny her access to some areas of the villa. She also did not acknowledge the abuse she first hurled at the First Lady.”
Mrs Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media, Mrs Bisi Olumide-Ajayi, did not respond to the calls made to her mobile telephone line on Monday night in an attempt by our correspondent to get the Presidency’s reaction. The Director of Information to the First Lady, Suleiman Haruna, also did not respond to the calls made to his telephone line. The clash between the President’s wife and Daura’s daughter generated reactions on Monday.
Groups, including the Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, berated the Buhari administration saying the video was an indication of the power play in the Presidential Villa. But as the groups condemned the President, there were indications that the Presidency had started investigating the video. The Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, called on the National Assembly to immediately probe Buhari for allocating a house to his nephew, where the latter had lived for over three years. Atoye said this in a reaction to an interview by Daura’s daughter, Fatimah, who said Buhari gave Daura permission to live in the Glass House, Villa, for three years before moving him to a bigger apartment in the same Aso Rock. The activist said worldwide, the Presidential Villa is meant for the first family, the Vice-President and his family as well as essential staff members of the President.
Buhari abusing his office – CDNDC convener
Speaking to The PUNCH on Monday, he said, “It is unfortunate that President Buhari is abusing his office and using his power to advance selfish motives. Apart from the immediate family of the President and direct staff, the Villa is not meant to be used to house political friends, uncles or concubines. “It is shameful that Mamman Daura, who is a de facto head in the Villa, allowed his daughter to grant an interview in which she accused the wife of the President. It is not only shameful but an affront. “As a citizen and a group, we would advise the first lady to take legal action against those who have held her family hostage to advance selfish motives at the expense of the people. We call on the National Assembly to probe the abuse of the Villa.”
Buhari’s presidency has been hijacked – CSNAP
Also speaking to The PUNCH, the Chairman, Civil Society Network Against Corruption, Mr. Lanre Suraj, said the interview had only confirmed the fear of Nigerians that the Presidency had been hijacked by a cabal. He said since Daura was neither an appointee nor member of Buhari’s nuclear family, it was wrong of the President to allow him to enjoy public funds.
Suraj said, “There is no justification for such. It would have been different if he (Daura) was a public official. To the best of our knowledge, Mamman Daura is not an aide to the President and not a member of the first family. Bringing members of extended family to eat from taxpayers’ money is unheard of. “That is why we hear of the powers of the cabal. They not only misadvise the Present but also take advantage of taking over shady deals in the DSS, CBN, NIA and the rest. It is unacceptable and it smacks of corruption and abuse of public funds.
Some Nigerians on Twitter expressed their support for Fatima, while others criticised her for defying the First Lady. Emmanuel Ukeme said, “So, these illegal occupants of Aso Rock are being fed, accommodated, etc. at the expense of the Nigerian state, using taxpayers’ money. So, does anyone still have a doubt about the Aso Rock cabals now? @aishambuhari, a mother of the nation, Nigerians are solidly behind you.”
Also, @movtOfDPeople said, “In what capacity are you residing in the Presidential Villa, Miss Fatima Mamman Daura? You’re neither elected nor have any official appointment, yet you are waging war against the only known wife of the President. Your guts in going to town with this exposes hidden truth.” However, @orenjur, stated, “Why blame Mamman Daura for bringing his family to the Villa? Was it not Buhari that gave him the Glass House in the Villa? We should be blaming Buhari for not putting his house in order.” @Gimbason_E also said, “The Buhari presidency is already in a shambles. How come Mamman Daura has so much power to the extent that his daughter can say that about the President’s wife?
But a non-governmental organisation, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, said there were issues to be addressed on the incident. The Executive Director, CACOL, Debo Adeniran, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said although there were issues to be addressed on how the incident had affected the President’s immediate family, there was nothing wrong with him giving an apartment to his relative.
Adeniran said once a person became the executive head of an organisation, they had so many powers concentrated in their hands. According to him, Buhari, as President, also has some opportunities he could utilise on behalf of whomever he thinks deserves some favours. He said, “What we cannot say is that the activities of such a person (relation) will be inimical to the growth, development, security and welfare of the people that are in the immediate environment of the President. It doesn’t matter the relationship somebody has with another. “If it were ordinarily accommodating a third party to the family and it was, in the opinion of the President, necessary to do so, I don’t see anything wrong in that.”
Likening the apartment in question to an official apartment, the activist said, “You determine who comes there, why the person is there, who gets out of the place and who exits the apartment until the apartment is withdrawn from you. I believe that is what the President is doing. “What I don’t understand is why it had to affect the immediate family of Mr President. It may be some internal dynamics that the rest of us are not privy to. “So, basically, we should give them the benefit of the doubt until we have a contrary explanation that it is beyond the powers of those who were running the Villa, maybe the management or maybe they did it on behalf of the President without his knowledge.”