…As more condemnation trails closure manipulation
There appears to let up as more accusations have continued to trail President Muhammadu Buhari over perceived narrow and tribal manipulation of the closure of the Nigerian land border, in view of recent discovery that key corporations belonging to industrialists of northern extraction including Dangote and BUA Industries received secret presidential clearance to engage in export of their products.
The deal is believed to be in collaboration with some of the president’s key cabinet members, members including the National Security Adviser, Majo. General Monguno and the Customs Comptroller General, Col. Hameed Ali, both retired.
This is even as top dependable sources hinted that President Buhari has consented to recommendation to reopen the border after Christmas, tailored to correspond with the end of the year 2020. The presidential approval for the reopening of the border believed to have been issued in advance, is coming on the heels of popular condemnation of the border closure, which many analysts believe was not properly conceived because it lacked necessary counter action plans tied to strategic time frame and reevaluation process.
Analysts also believe that the president’s key cabinet members who advised the president on border closure acted more on impulsive, short of careful national planning, thereby reducing the exercise to mere political past time. More Nigerians have continued to question the moral uprightness of the president’s decision to allow Dangote Cement, BUA and an unnamed gas company to resume exports across the nation’s land borders, when other economic players have been rendered inactive.
It will be recalled that an undisclosed number of personnel serving under the joint border security drill code named ‘Ex-swift response’, drawn from the Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Police, Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, and the three arm of the Nigerian Military drafted into the border drill to enforce the border closure, recently lost their jobs under controversial circumstances.
While some lucky ones lost ranks, still others considered equally lucky were compulsorily retired from their respective services; while the unlucky ones including an upright, meticulous, just committed Assistant Comptroller General of Customs, was dismissed with ignominy; over alleged inappropriate action.
The officers were charged with various alleged offences under the border drill and were tried under the presidential probe panel instituted by President Buhari. The borders were shut in August 2019 on the orders of the president, allegedly based on the recommendation of Ali and Monguro.
No sooner information filtered in that Dangote and the two others have been operating across a supposed closed border, than those involved hurriedly prepared statements admitting their exemption; in attempt to stave off public opprobrium. Anthony Ihejiena, Coprorate Affairs Manager of Dangote Group was the first to announce on Monday that the Federal Government had granted Dangote Cement, authority to engage in cross border export .
The lead agency in the border drill, the Nigeria Customs Service followed suit Tuesday, attributing the controversial exemption to presidential directive. While struggling to keep a straight face, the Nigeria Customs Service attributed the development to the perceive gains of diplomatic engagements targeted at reopening the border; and maintained on the other hand, that despite the exemptions, the border closure remains in place.
Customs National Public Relations Officer and spokesman of the joint border security drill code named ‘Ex-swift response’, Joseph Attah, was quoted as saying, “The speculation about the possibility of opening the border has always been there but I cannot fuel any speculation. The approval does not mean the border has been opened. What I can say is that the ongoing diplomatic engagement is yielding fruits. Government will review the situation and take appropriate decisions at the right time.”
Industry minders blasted the presidency for failing to put in place a channel that ought to brief Nigerians on developments and strategies regarding resolution of the closed border on quarterly basis, which they say is a big deal.
Many who commented on the development accused this government of double standard, aimed at manipulating the economy in favour of few individuals.