BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
Despite awaiting parliamentary approval to deploy the military to embark on the forcefully removal of neighbouring Nigerien military junta that staged a coup last week, embattled President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has directed the immediate closure of Nigerian borders with Niger.
Disclosing the development in Sokoto State earlier today, the Acting Comptroller General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi MFR, told newsmen the Service is committed to ensuring that the presidential directive is carried out to the later, and regretted whatever inconveniences the border closure may cause, noting that the action is temporary and that the total lockdown will be over as soon as the military junta is flushed out in Niamey.
Recall that President Tinubu had rallied the governments of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Thursday wrote the Nigerian Senate seeking approval to declare war with Niger aimed at purportedly restoring the neighbouring state’s democracy, perceived by Aso Rock as having truncated the francophone country.
According to a statement by the Customs National Public Relations Officer, Aliyu Maiwada, the leadership of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) was at Ilela Border today, to ensure compliance with the presidential directive to close all land borders with Niger.
The statement reads: “Following the recent overthrow of a democratically elected government in Niger Republic, which prompted the Nigerian Government to shut down the Nigeria-Niger borders, the Acting Comptroller General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi MFR, has re-echoed President Tinubu’s cardinal reason for taking the measure, saying that the exercise was not meant to infuse hardship on Nigerians.
“The CGC, who was on a working visit to Illela Border Station on Friday morning to monitor and assess the implementation of the exercise, expressed delight with the level of compliance by the residents. According to him, the measure was a decision taken by ECOWAS, which the Nigerian President chairs, adding that “we are optimistic that this effort will yield positive results, and I must tell you that President Tinubu is committed to restoring peace in this axis.”
He also said that the exercise would secure Nigeria’s Democracy and social stability, considering the current state of uncertainty in the neighbouring Niger Republic. Responding to questions from newsmen as to whether the exercise will affect Customs’ mandate of generating revenue, the CGC reportedly said the Service is aware of the situation – and has already taken proactive measures to address it strategically.
The CGC according to the statement “reiterated that the administration of President Ahmad Bola Tinubu is committed to protecting the well-being of the citizens and their businesses, saying that “I have the optimism that borders will soon be opened and businesses of Nigerians will continue to thrive”, adding:
“President Tinubu, as a champion of the region, has measure responsibility to promote trade, and we are all aware that trade can’t be achieved where there’s no peace. However, considering what’s happening in Niger, which affects the political stability of the sovereign nation, my mission here is to restate the directive of President Tinubu as the ECOWAS Chairman.”
Although the statement quoted the Chairman of the Association of Nigeria Customs License Agents, Alhaji Aminu Dan-Iya, as consoling residents around the affected area and the entire stakeholders to understand the situation, reportedly saying “the decision was for our benefit, thus no need to panic”, the adverse effects of the closure was evident in the long row of trapped vehicles conveying various goods, along the Ilela border station.
President Tinubu had yesterday written the Nigerian Senate, hinting the Red Chambers of the proposed ECOWAS military action and other sanctions against the Nigerien military junta. The letter titled ‘Political Situation In Niger’ was read on the floor of the Upper Chamber by the President of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio.
The letter reads, “Following the unfortunate political situation in the Niger Republic culminating in the overthrow of its President, ECOWAS under my leadership condemned the coup in its entirety and resolved to seek the return of the democratically elected govt. In a bid to restore peace, ECOWAS convened a meeting and came out with a communique.
“Closure and monitoring of all land borders with the Niger Republic and reactivating of the border drilling exercise. Cutting off Electricity supply to the Niger Republic. Mobilizing international support for the implementation of the provisions of the ECOWAS communiqué. Preventing the operation of commercial and special flights into and from Niger Republic. Blockade of goods in transit to Niger especially from Lagos and eastern seaports. Embarking on sensitization of Nigerians and Nigerians on the imperative of these actions, particularly via social media. Military build-up and deployment of personnel for military intervention to enforce compliance of the military junta in Niger should they remain recalcitrant.”
Meanwhile tension is said to be high on both sides as Nigerien soldiers apparently on reprisal sanctions, have reportedly been preventing Nigerian troops stationed at Malan Fatori our border community with neigbouring Nigerien town of Bosso from accessing the town to source for food items and basic daily provisions.