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FG negotiating border reopening with Benin, Niger Republic — Customs Chief

The Federal Government, on Tuesday, said it is discussing with the Nigerien and Beninese governments over plans to reopen comon land borders.

The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Adewale Adeniyi, disclosed this after the inauguration of the National Single Window Project at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.

Adeniyi said he had met representatives of both countries to discuss issues that led to the border closure and to prevent a reccurrence.

In August 2019, former President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the closure of Nigeria’s land border with Benin, blocking all imports. Buhari’s directive significantly disrupted the trade of food items as millions of Nigerians heavily depended on imported food.

However, the administration said the directive was part of efforts to spur domestic food production and to curb smuggling and associated corruption.

On October 14, the government closed all of Nigeria’s borders with Benin and those of other countries for the same purpose.

“All goods for now are banned from being exported or imported through our land borders and that is to ensure we have total control over what comes in,” said then comptroller-general of the Nigerian Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali.

Ali said imports into Nigeria would flow through the seaports, where customs duties can be easily imposed.

He said there was no timeline for reopening the borders “until we have total control over what comes in.”

But Hameed’s immediate successor, Adeniyi, told reporters on Tuesday that,“Regarding opening the land borders, consultations are already in progress, some of them are at very high level. Over the last weekend, I interacted with my colleagues in Benin Republic. Earlier, I went to our borders with the Niger Republic.

“We are looking at the issues that led to the closure of the border in the first instance and we are working to ensure that those things do not repeat themselves and I’m happy to say that we are making steady progress.”

He said the Customs would “continue to consult” and “take guidance” from President Bola Tinubu, adding that “everything is to ensure that we have borders that are secured and hopefully with the deployment of Single Window at our ports and border stations, our borders will be more secured and we’re going to run them more efficiently.”

Adeniyi, a member of the Presidential Steering Committee on the National Single Window Project, thanked the President for Tuesday’s launch.

He explained, “I am not really sure if Mr. President mentioned the word ‘border’ during the inauguration of the steering committee, but honestly, this provides us with an opportunity to mention something because the single window system is seen as a coordinated border management system.

“First, let me express my sincere delight and appreciation to Mr. President for making this happen. This is not the first attempt. But we’ve had situations where some kind of power play has characterised the implementation of the single windows.

“So we’re happy that this time we have a situation where Mr. President has demonstrated commitment and a very strong will, and these are very strong, critical success factors for the implementation of any project, particularly a project like Single Window that is collaborative.”

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