Nigeria, Benin and Niger Republic agree on mechanisms to reopen borders

Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama has revealed that a consensus has been reached on certain mechanisms towards the reopening of land borders by Nigeria, Benin and Niger Republic.

The minister while reading a communique at the end of a four-hour meeting, said that the three countries would send a list of security operatives that would be part of the joint border patrol team to advise on the modalities for a reopening.

Onyeama said the security operatives in a two-day meeting billed for November 25th and 26th, would look at the modalities of implementing the whole regime of anti-smuggling regulations that have been agreed upon and recommend formally for the reopening of the borders.

He said that the other compromise reached at the meeting include the establishment of a Monitoring and Evaluation Committee from the three countries, comprising of ministers of Finance, Trade, Foreign Affairs, Customs, Immigration and National Security Adviser (NSA), whose core mandate will be to ensure actions that would facilitate and enhance the suppression of smuggled goods and other related matters.

“Also, the establishment of Trade Facilitation Committee among the three countries, comprising ministers of Finance and Trade in order to promote intra-regional trade among the three countries as well as put in place sanctions against smuggling of goods and to ensure persons from the three countries enter/exit each other’s states with valid ECOWAS recognized travel documents through recognized controlled posts.” He noted.

The minister restated that the mandate of the committee would include inter alia measures and actions that would facilitate and enhance the suppression of rice smuggling and other prohibited items along with the three countries.

Onyeama further pointed that deliberations were made on the myriad of challenges faced in the areas of smuggling of goods and services that are not approved under the protocols on ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS), Free Movement of Persons without valid ECOWAS travel documents, as well as a plethora of illegal warehouses along the border corridors.

“The meeting acknowledged smuggling of goods as well as human trafficking as a collective violation of ECOWAS Protocols on ETLS and free movement that pose severe economic and security threats to infra-regional trade and free movement”, he noted

Onyeama, however, affirmed that the impact of the border closure has been severe, stating that “border closure always has an impact at the end of the day, it is about the mischief we are addressing.”

According to him, “The mischief in our case is in the area of food security and also security itself through smuggling of small weapons and light arms and human trafficking. The mischief we are addressing is much more important than the cost. The costs are high, the benefits are high.”

The minister further stated that the countries had reaffirmed their commitment towards enhancing economic integration.


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