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  • Shippers’ Council Says It is In  Interest of Economy

By Shola Fadeyi

HASSAN BELLO OFFICIAL PORTRAITStakeholders which cut across various segments in the maritime and allied  sectors, have lent their support to the ongoing partial  closure  of Nigeria’s land borders, with its neighbouring countries, even as they have canvassed for reforms at the Nigerian Seaports     to make them more customer friendly  , as well  adopt measures to check smuggling into the country.

They made  the observations at a Stakeholders meeting called by  the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, the Seaports economic regulator,      to further  explain the rationale of the closure ,  obtain their reactions on the measure,  with a view to   advising the government on other steps that it should take to make the measure  beneficial to the economy.

The stakeholders who participated were from theNigerian Customs Service (NCS) Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) , the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders(NAGAFF), and   the Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry( LCCI) .

Others are from the Nigerian Port Consultative Council (NPCC), National   Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines   and Agriculture (NACCIMA) ,the Councl for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria(CRFFN) , Kaduna Inland Container Depot ,  Shippers’ Association  of Lagos  State and  Cross Border Traders among others.

The stakeholders at the end of the meeting however agreed that there would be a need for the Governmet to put better structures and infrastructure in place at the Nigerian Ports, improve their processes and procedures, with a view to making them to be more efficient   and customer friendly , embrace inter connectivity , better  the welfare of security agencies serving at the border posts   to encourage them to check smuggling.

The Chairman of the occasion, Mr Hassan Bello, who is the Executive Secretary/CEO  of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) said the closure was not a permanent measure but temporary and would end, once the Nigeria’s neighbouring countries abide by the protocols and agreement  the country has  signed with them on the matter, ponting out that the Federal Government reserves the right to close its borders at any time it so wishes, just as it is done by other nations.

Bello urged all the stakeholders to continue to support the government on the border closure for the fact that it was done in the interest of the economy, and as an inward looking policy that would check smuggling, increase government’s revenue as well as create employment opportunities for Nigerian youths.

The Chairman of the NPCC, Otunba Kunle Folarin in his contribution, justified government’s closure of the borders , saying that no  nation would continue to open its borders to its neighbours when they are not abiding by its agreement , when they are encouraging  illicit trade  to Nigeria and making the country not to reap any significant benefit from its relationship with them.

The Vice President of ANLCA, Kayode Farinto and Association’s Financial Secretary,  who is also the President of the Women In Maritime , Nigeria , Hajia Bola Muse  also supported the closure but agrred that it was done without consulting with stakeholders.Farinto  advised  that since the continued closure will lead to increase in  the volume of cargoes imported into Nigera , measures should be put in place to improve the efficiency of the ports.

Mr Ismail Yusuff of the Kaduna Inland Dry Port and  Mr Anniente Bassey of the NACCIMA  Export Group however said that the border closure is a sign that the security agencies in Nigeria are inefficient , while a cross border trader , Alhaji Salami Nasiru and Mr Timothy Awogbemi of the CRFFN   said that there was a need for Nigeria to cater for the welfare of its security personnel to make them to be committed and efficient.

The Founder of NAGAFF, Chief Boniface Aniebonam, said government has no excuse for any country for closing its borders to its neighbours ,but stated that it should have informed the stakeholders of the plan so  that they would not be caught unawares .He however said that Nigeria should not reverse its decision until those countries have learnt to play by the rules .

While Dr Eugene Nweke , an expert and former President of NAGAFF also lent his support to the closure  but gave some advice based on what he called , a product of research. Another representative of NAGAFFF said that government should have introduced human face to the measure, for the fact that it  has made many Nigerian importers goods to be stucked at the borders  , while many of them are dying for the loss they have incurred on their trade.

The Customs representatives attributed the closure to breach in transit protocol by neighbouring countries, their support for illicit trade into Nigeria and outright breach of protocol agreements entered into with them by Nigeria.