The House of Representatives, on Wednesday, engaged in a long debate on the border closure policy of the federal government.
The debate followed a motion moved by Kolawole Lawal (APC, Ogun) and 10 others, on the need for the government to re-open Idi-Iroko border and others.
The government had shut down land borders across the country in August 2019, citing smuggling across the borders as part of the reasons for the shutdown.
In December 2020, the federal executive council, directed the opening of the four borders; Seme, Illela, Maigatari and Mfun.
Mr Lawal said prior to the closure of the Idi-Iroko border, it was generating N6 billion annually.
He added that “the decision to stem smuggling of goods through the closure of land borders has increased food smuggling and other prohibited items as well as other crimes, thus raising questions about the measure’s effectiveness and the actual reasons for the decision.
“The government’s decision to ban illegal importation of food items under the guise of border closure has not increased farmers’ food production as the country is experiencing food inflation,”
Several lawmakers spoke in support of the motion and called for an end to the strategy.
Sergius Ogun (PDP, Edo), called for the deployment of technology to tackle smuggling, adding that the closure of borders had failed to address smuggling.
“Our daily consumption of PMS is 60 million, sometimes 80 million, but the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is saying that PMS is being smuggled. If borders are closed, is the petroleum motor spirit evaporating? We need to deploy technology, this is not rocket science.”
Also speaking in support of the motion, Isiaka Ibrahim (APC, Ogun), argued that the “country already tested the closure, and it is not working. We need to change strategy.”
Fatahu Muhammad (APC, Katsina), Samuel Adejare (APC, Lagos) Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta) all spoke against the border policy.
But the deputy speaker, Idris Wase (APC, Plateau), said the policy had helped to reduce the smuggling of arms and ammunition, stressing that the border closure policy had also helped to improve food security.
Also speaking against the motion, Beni Lar (PDP, Plateau), said the policy had helped to develop the poultry sector.
“Keeping our border close is the best. Our poultry farmers are now using local feeds and our rice farmers are doing better.”
Before putting to motion to vote, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila said he intentionally allowed the motion to be debated for long.
“It is not in our best interest to be second-guessing the government. I think we should invite the heads of internal security to brief the House,” he said.
However, when he put the motion to a voice vote, the “nays” had it.
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