By Adedapo Adesanya
Nigerian government has accused one of its neighbours, Benin Republic, of frustrating efforts to stop smuggling of prohibited goods into the country despite closing the land borders.
Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, according to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), made this accusation while speaking on a live programme on TV Continental (TVC) in Lagos last Friday.
“Regrettably, the signs out there are not positive in the sense that in the last few weeks, the number of seizures that have been made do not show that our neighbours are in a hurry to comply with Nigeria.
“As we speak today, there are three ships heading toward the Benin Republic laden with about 105,000 metric tons of rice.
“This is a country of about 12 million people. That rice is meant for ultimate consumption of Nigerians.
“In addition, Benin Republic just negotiated with Japan to receive rice worth $30 million.
“It is clear that the ultimate destination of the rice will be Nigeria and that is why we are appealing to our neighbours.” the Minister was quoted as saying on the programme.
Mr Mohammed further added that he had it on good authority that the country would not be opening its borders soon, because this posed a threat to both its economy and national security.
“The facts at our disposal reveal that 10,000 vehicles are imported every month into the Cotonou seaport,” he explained.
He continued, “For a population of about 12 million people to be importing 120,000 vehicles in a year means that the vehicles are going to Nigeria with sufficient market.
“We have been on this dialogue since 2015 and the truth of the matter is that there has never been any legitimate transit trade between us and the two countries (Benin Republic and Japan).
“This is hurting our economy, affecting our security and no country will fold its arms when the overall interest of its people is being jeopardised.”
Mr Mohammed further added that the government’s decision to prohibit the sale of fuel in filling stations less than 20km away from the borders was a smart move because of the high level of smuggling of the product to neighbouring countries.
He estimated that 160 filling stations were affected by the directive because they primarily engaged in smuggling.
“These are stations that when you drive into them in the day time, they will not be dispensing fuel until late in the night when they will smuggle the product across the border,” he said.
The minister said that government was aware of the effects of the policy to shut its border had on the citizens, especially as this had led to an inflation in prices of food stuff, he however urged that the Nigerian people to bear the temporary pains to reap the benefits.
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