In what came as shocking revelation, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the reopening of four land borders with immediate effect, while others will be reopened subsequently.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, disclosed this to State House Correspondents after the week’s virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, held in the Council Chambers Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to Ahmed, the borders opened for now include Seme Border in the Southwest, Ilela Border in the Northwest, Maigatari Border in the Northwest and Mfun Border in the South south.
The Minister, however, clarified that the ban on the importation of some commodities, like rice and poultry products and other banned commodities would continue to be enforced.
She also disclosed that the remaining borders yet to be opened would be reopened gradually between now and December 31, 2020.
“I am here to just report that His Excellency the president approved the recommendations of the committee that I chaired with the Minister of Trade and Investment as member, Minister of Interior as member, Minister of Foreign Affairs as member, National Security Adviser as member and Comptroller General of Customs.
“This committee was mandated to review and advise on the reopening of the Nigerian borders and after recommendations, the president approved the reopening of four land borders, namely: Seme in the South-west part of the country, Ilela in the North-west part of the country, Maitagari in the North-west part of the country and Mfun in the South-south part of the country.
“So, these four land borders will be reopened immediately while the remaining borders are directed to be reopened on or before 31st of December, 2020. Mr. President has also directed on the reopening of the borders that while others are being reopened, the ban on importation of rice, poultry and other banned products still subsists and will be implemented by border patrol team,” she said.
Explaining the gains of the borders closure over the period when they remained shut, the Minister of Industry Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, who also spoke at the post-FEC briefing, noted that the problem of smuggling was effectively checked by security agencies.
“We have many advantages to the border closure; it has given the security agencies an opportunity to assess the problems at the borders particularly with regard to smuggling.
“As you are all aware before the border closures a lot of petroleum products were being smuggled out from the borders to West African countries and the border closures has created a situation that has tactically stopped that, they have been able to calculate the amount of petroleum products being smuggled out by calculating the amount that is being lifted now compared to what was being lifted before.
“The issue of smuggling of rice to the country has reduced drastically and we are hoping that our agencies will be able to sustain that so also is the issue of poultry smuggling.
“Also very important is the issue of importation of small arms and weapons into the country that also has stopped. We are hoping and we are sure that this time around, our security agencies will be able to see that that doesn’t reoccur again. These are the issues that caused the closure of the borders in the first place and we have been able to put a stop to them,” he explained.
Meanwhile, when asked why the administration had to call back the 2021 Appropriation Bill for correction, Minister of Finance Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Ahmed, explained that President Buhari had recently expanded the scope of the reach of the Social Investment Programme, hence a need for budgetary review of what was initially planned.
“For 2021 Budget, we were compelled to send a message to the National Assembly based on a fresh approval from His Excellency, the President, to expand the Social Investment Programme.
“The President in his wisdom, saw the need to literarily double all the structures of the Social Investment Programme so that there’ll be more support provided to more Nigerians that are poor and vulnerable,” she explained.