The Acting Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Mr Wale Adeniyi, has revealed that not all the country’s land borders have been re-opened.
The acting CG also affirmed that there have been seizures of smuggled fuel at the borders and that it will take some time before the issue of smuggling of fuel across the border will completely dissipate
Fielding questions from State House correspondents after a meeting President Bola Tinubu, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday, he said the Federal Government had not ordered that all land borders across the country should be opened.
Recall that there have been speculation that the president had approved the reopening of all land borders upon his inauguration in office.
The acting Comptroller-General told journalists that the borders which were not among the selected strategic ones that were reopened in 2022 still remain shut, although a thorough review of the situation is currently ongoing.
He said as part of efforts to enhance border security and regional integration, he plans to visit the Republic of Benin to engage in discussions with their Customs Administration.
He explained that the aim is to foster collaboration, address border security concerns, facilitate importation across the border, and explore technological solutions to complex border challenges.
Adeniyi said: “Well, it is not true that all Nigerian borders have been opened. The status quo ante still exists in the borders. If you remember that the borders were completely shut down 2018 up until 2022, when some selected strategic borders were reopened, that is to the situation as we speak. And this was why we had an adhoc arrangement of a special unit coordinated by the Office of the NSA to enforce that border closure.
“But as we speak, about five of them have been reopened. Four were initially reopened and two more were open after that. And that is still the situation. There are ongoing processes to review this situation against the objective of the border closure itself. And the processes are not yet completed. And of course, when the borders are reopened, it’s not going to be subject of rumour in any way.
“I can also tell you that part of my discussions with Mr. President is to actively engage customs administration’s across our borders, particularly the strategic ones that we must work and collaborate with for us to achieve common objectives of border security and regional integration.
“In the next one week, or thereabout, I will be paying an official visit to Republic of Benin, to have discussions with the Customs Administration of Benin, and see how we can take forward the issue of collaborations between us, the issue of border security, the issue of importation across the border, and more importantly, how we can deploy technological solutions to very complex border problems.”
On fuel smuggling despite the removal of fuel subsidies, the Acting Comptroller General acknowledged that complete eradication may take time even though the menace has reduced.
He expressed hope that ongoing policies being implemented by the government would eventually eliminate fuel smuggling across borders.
According to him, “Well, sometimes we just want to assume that because of the subsidy, the problem will evaporate one day. So the sense I was trying to create was that it might take some time, before the issue of smuggling of fuel across the border will completely dissipate.
“So in some border areas, we had reports of seizures of fuel and that is what we heard. So it was the assumption generally, that because of the fuel is now sold at N500 per liter it will be a disincentive for smuggling.
“But contrary to that, we have seen that they are smuggling it across the borders. The rate at which this is being smuggled has reduced considerably.
“And it is our hope that by the time we mix some of these other policies that government is working on, it will completely eliminate the problems of smuggling of fuel across borders.”
Speaking on his meeting with the president, he said, “I had the opportunity to have very useful discussions and a very constructive engagement with His Excellency, Mr. President. And for all of you that have known him, I’ve worked with him very, very closely. You know that, Mr. President, is a very good listener.
“We had discussions regarding what customs can bring to the table, to actualize the vision of renewed hope for Nigeria, what customers can do in terms of addressing gaps in revenue generation in the customs, our enforcement strategies, and, most importantly, the issue of promoting port efficiency and competitiveness of our ports.
“So these are generally the issues that we discussed. And I believe that in the days ahead, we will be prioritising some of these issues for the benefits of the Nigerian economy,” he said.
Asked if the President issued him specific instructions during the meeting, the Acting Comptroller-General said “in terms of specifics, I am sure that we are all very, very familiar with the Presidential Advisory Council. And there is a document which has been made public.
“Our discussions centered around aligning the vision of Customs, the activities of Customs in the short, medium and long terms with those noble objectives set out in the PAC documents.
“So we’re talking about making our ports user-friendly, we’re talking about decongesting the ports, we talked about 48 hours clearance of goods around the ports, export led inward looking economic development strategies.
“So these are some of the issues that we discussed. And I pledged commitment of the customs to bring out reforms and to collaborate with other agencies of government to achieve some of those objectives stated in the PSC documents.”