After years of watching idly while its immediate neighbours provided smugglers the enabling environment to sabotage its economy, Nigeria is finally moving to clampdown on any of its neighbours that retains practices that undermine its economy.
Having now classified smuggling as an “existential threat”, the federal government is poised to take stern actions against neighbouring countries that enable smuggling of goods into Nigeria through their borders.
Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is heading a team which President Muhammadu Buhari has set up to evolve a road map for curbing smuggling, including recommending appropriate sanctions for countries that abet cross border smuggling.
With a vow that Nigeria will no longer permit smuggling from neighbouring countries, Vice President Osinbajo on Monday warned that it will not be business as usual again. “We are making the point to our neighbors, that smuggling is an existential threat, we can’t permit the level of smuggling going on. Smuggling is a serious threat to our economy, and Mr. President has asked me to head a team to work out what needs to be done,” he said of unchecked cross border smuggling.
Osinbajo speaking at the 6th Presidential Quarterly Business Forum for Private sector stakeholders, at the old banquet hall, State House, Abuja, Osinbajo alerted of the seasonable upsurge in rice importation to neighbouring countries.
Although he did not name the country, the Republic of Benin has been the major staging post for cross border smuggling aided by its government policy that provides concessionary tariffs and shipping charges as well as large chain of warehouses.
“Now, three shiploads of rice have left Thailand, 120,000 metric tonnes, going to this same neighbour of ours who have very large warehouses where they store this rice. It is very clear that this rice is for us because our neighbours don’t consume parboiled rice, they consume the white broken rice.
It is clear that our neighbours do excellent business, with allowing rice to come into Nigeria and other products including poultry I think it is important for us as a country, to make the point clear, that we are not going to accept that,” the vice president said.
He said last year, a similar spike in tonnage was recorded in the weeks leading to Christmas when over 500,000 metric tonnes of rice were shipped into that neighbouring country “which the Minister of Agriculture told us about and how it came in through one of our neighbours, but we blocked it.”
Business and Maritime West Africa has undertaken series of investigative reports that tracked the policy thrust of Benin republic where its government regularly adjusted its import policies to respond to and undermine Nigeria’s attempts to curb cross border smuggling through its immediate neighbours. Rice and vehicles, especially fairly used cars are the major targets.
“We are all within the same economic zone and work together, so we go in a friendly and polite manner as possible, to ensure that this practice stops,” Osinbajo told the 6th Presidential Quarterly Business Forum for Private sector stakeholders.