Weeks after Nigeria closed its borders to its neighbours, a tripartite joint committee consisting of Nigeria, Niger and Benin has met to seek ways to end the standoff and also curb smuggling activities along shared borders.
The meeting was aimed at resolving the economic and security issues that forced Nigeria to close its borders.
The meeting held on Thursday at the ECOWAS headquarters in Abuja.
The ministers of foreign affairs, economy and finance, industry and commerce, information and trade of the affected nations were present at the meeting.
Geoffrey Onyeama, the Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, explained why the committee was set up.
“The committee is put together to be able to address the inadequacies and lack of implementation of the numerous agreements and memoranda of understanding entered by the three countries to check smuggling and other crimes at their common borders,” he said.
He said, “even after Nigeria had placed a ban on foreign rice entering into the country through land borders in 2016, somehow foreign rice was and is still very much available in the market.”
“Nigeria is more concerned about the amount of rice and other agricultural products that seriously impeding on local production and the country’s desire for food security,” he added.
The mandate of the newly implemented committee includes:
“To adopt measures and actions that will facilitate and enhance the suppression of rice smuggling and other prohibited items along the borders of the three countries;
“The committee will prepare and put into force the necessary bilateral agreements to combat smuggling along the common borders of the three countries;
“It will establish a tripartite Anti-Smuggling Joint Border Patrol Team with power to arrest and handover any person arrested to the appropriate authorities in the three countries for investigation and prosecution.
“It will put in place the modalities for the establishment of Joint Inspection Task Force comprising of the customs of the three countries for the purposes of inspection and excursion of transit goods at the point of entry to their destination;
“The customs administration of the three countries must ensure strict adherence to the implementation of various agreements entered into;
“Pursue vigorously the escort and handing over of goods in transit from customs to customs. Initiate anti-smuggling sensitisation and awareness program/measures among the populace of the three countries;
“Sharing information and intelligence on the movement of goods, services and people among the three countries, etc.”
PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported that the Seme border was closed in August.
In October the Comptroller-General of the Nigerians Customs Service, Hameed Ali, announced that “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.”
This was the first official confirmation of a full border closure.
He said that, reopening the border depends largely on the “neighboring countries ability to comply with the rules governing cross-border trade”.
Nigeria’s neighbouring countries (Niger and Benin) that were affected economically by their inability to export into Nigeria then made demands and thus a tripartite committee was formed.
The Nigerian government recently announced the borders will remain shut till January 2020.
Meanwhile at the meeting, the minister of interior for Niger, Mohammed Bazoum and the minister of foreign affairs and cooperation, Benin, Aurelien Agbenonci, both pledged their full support to the agreements established at the meeting.