Recall, gentlemen, that on 25 Nov. 2019, a powerful Federal Government delegation comprising the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, interior as Well as Information and Culture; Minister of State for Finance, Budget and national planning; the national security adviser; the Comptroller General of the Nigerian immigration service and the Deputy Comptroller General of customs visited the Seme border for an on-the-spot Assessment of the ongoing border drill in four geo-political zones of the country, viz:- South-South (Sector 1), South-West (Sector 2), North-Central (Sector 3) and North-West (Sector 4)
2. After the tour, we briefed the media on the genesis of the Border drill, code-named ‘exercise swift response’, which was launched on 20 Aug. 2019 as part of the measures to secure Nigeria’s land and Maritime borders. We said the exercise, which includes the Nigerian Customs Service, the Nigerian Immigration Service, the Armed Forces of Nigeria as well as the Nigeria Police Force and other security and Intelligence Agencies, is being coordinated by the office of the National Security Adviser
3. We said the exercise wouldn’t have been contemplated if our neighbours had complied with the various MOUs as well as the ECOWAS Transit protocols, including ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS). We traced discussions on doing legitimate trade between Nigeria on one hand and Benin and Niger on the other to 2005, and Noted that the discussions led to MOUs in 2005, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, none of which – unfortunately – led to any legitimate Transit trade between Nigeria and Benin and Niger.
4. Gentlemen, we also said that the border drill, which some have described as border closure, has so far curbed the smuggling of foreign rice into the country, in addition to other prohibited items; Increased the monthly import revenue by over 15%; led to significant seizures with estimated monetary value of over N3,500,000,000; reduced local fuel consumption by 30% as well as reduced the importation of arms, ammunition and drugs.
5. Today, we have just assessed the border drill in sector 4 (North-West). Please note that the challenges in sector 4 are Different from what we witnessed in sector 2, especially Seme. Whereas Rice smuggling is the main issue in sector 2, the challenges here in Sector 3 include fuel smuggling, illegal migration and importation of Arms and ammunition. Of course rice from Benin is also smuggled to Nigeria through Niger.
6. Following our assessment tour today, we want to say as follows:
(i) – The main reason for embarking on the drill is to protect our country against transnational security concerns such as smuggling, proliferation of small arms and light weapons; irregular migration as well as terrorism and armed banditry, among a host of other concerns.
(ii) – This exercise is not targeted at any region in the country, Neither is it designed to cripple businesses in any part of the Country, as some conspiracy theorists have been insinuating. As a matter of fact, since the exercise commenced over three months ago, local businesses across the country have continued to thrive, as farmers and rice millers in particular are now having turnover on investments.
(iii) – Having been briefed by the relevant officials here at the Jibia border post with Niger, we have a lot of good news to report, regarding the benefits of the drill from this post.
A) The drill has drastically curtailed the inflow of arms and ammunition. Bandits and terrorists are finding it hard to procure arms and ammunition, hence we have recorded a reduction in cases of cattle Rustling, kidnapping, armed banditry which were predominant in the North-west region, these acts have now been significantly reduced. The Arms and ammunition being used by violent extremists and criminal elements no longer make their way into the country through the land borders. Of course this will also have a negative effect on the insurgency.
(b) – Smuggling of petroleum products out of Nigeria has been greatly reduced. The closure of filling stations along the border is a huge success. There are hundreds of filling stations along the border. We counted many as we drove to the border this morning. They were set up purposely for smuggling. They don’t sell the fuel consignment they receive to the public. No. Plus 50% of them are owned by foreigners. Now that they are closed, we have recorded over 30% in domestic fuel consumption.
(c) – We have recorded over 30% increase in revenue since the drill. Gentlemen, before the drill, the borders contributed nothing to the revenue. Nothing. Customs was recording about n4. 5 billion daily. Since the closure, the figure has increased to between n5 and n8 billion daily.
(d) – The north west sector, of the four sectors affected by the drill, has recorded the highest success in terms of reduction of illegal migration, thanks to the drill
(iv) – Nigeria will continue to engage with the neighbouring countries to ensure that all the concerns that led to exercise swift response are fully addressed
(v) – We call on all key stakeholders, including the media, to ensure that the desired objectives of this drill, that is, to advance a secured, peaceful and prosperous Nigeria, are fully accomplished.
7. Gentlemen, we thank you for your kind attention