ETLS: Nigerian importers, exporters groan as FG shuts land borders
Importers and exporters operating in Nigeria, especially those that import and export cargo under the Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme ETLS, are currently groaning under the sudden decision of the Federal Government to shut the nation’s land borders.
The government, it was learnt deployed heavily armed military men across the nation’s major land entry and exit points, an exercise that is expected to last for 28 days as part of measures to curb the growing insecurity in the country.
Competent sources at one of the multinational manufacturing companies operating in Nigeria, which exports some of its finished and semi-finished products to West African countries under the ETLS scheme, said many of the manufacturing firms cannot export their products to neighbouring countries due to the sudden closure of the borders.
It was further gathered that if not urgently and carefully handled, the closure of the borders might negatively affect the nation’s economy, as it might increase stock of inventory at the warehouses of the affected companies and ultimately lead to loss of jobs.
Investigations also showed that apart from the big manufacturing firms, other itinerant importers and exporters whose consignments were at the point of transiting through the borders were equally caught up by the sudden closure, as the consignments were neither allowed to come in or go out of the country, leaving them stranded.
Meanwhile, National Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Customs Service, Deputy Comptroller Joseph Attah has confirmed the closure of the land borders, which came initially as speculation.
A statement issued to that effect by the PRO on behalf of the Comptroller General of the service, Col Hameed Ali rtd. reads in part: “As part of measures to secure Nigeria’s land and maritime borders, the Nigeria Customs Service NCS and the Nigerian Immigration Service NIS, in collaboration with the Armed Forces of Nigeria AFN as well as the Nigeria Police Force NPF and other security and intelligence agencies will be conducting a joint border security exercise, codenamed ‘EX-SWIFT RESPONSE’.
“The joint exercise is being coordinated by the office of the National Security Adviser ONSA and will take place in four geopolitical zones, namely; South-South, South-West, North-Central and North-West. It is expected that the exercise will promote interagency cooperation and increase preparedness to address trans-border security challenges such as terrorism, armed banditry, smuggling, proliferation of small arms and light weapons, amongst others.
“The exercise will also involve the movement of personnel, vehicles and equipment within the affected parts of the country. Therefore, we call on members of the public not to panic and should continue to engage in their normal duties. The overall objective is to ensure a peaceful and secure country in the interest of our national security”.