The Federal Government extended the duration of the ongoing ‘Exercise Swift Response’ across the nation’s borders till January 31, 2020, an exercise that started in August 2019.
In a statement by its Director-General, Mr. Timothy Olawale stressed that the policy was focused more on income generation and the federal government should take a broader look at the fundamentals of its decision to close the borders.
“While we acknowledge the trade imbalance between Nigeria and its neighbours and the security challenges facing the country currently, the citizen’s welfare and business prosperity should not be sacrificed for the inefficiency of our border policing.
“Despite the many merits that come with the border-closure, we are concerned that the policy comes without any palliative for legitimate local businesses, which negate the attempts at alleviating poverty and reduce unemployment. The continuous closure also possesses the capacity to render many Nigerians jobless and hungry.”
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Mr. Olawale reiterated the need to address the fundamental challenge of smuggling and insecurity while noting that businesses should not be sacrificed because of the inefficiencies of the Customs Service to protect the borders.
“The policy was more consistent with income generation and not in agreement with the harsh effect it has on households, businesses and investors’ confidence in general. Since the advent of this policy, prices of goods, especially food items had increased tremendously, further making the average Nigerian vulnerable as 70% of poor households budget is spent on food.
“Government must take a broader look at the fundamentals of its assumptions that led to the decision to close the borders. The government should not stifle legitimate businesses because of the inefficiency of the Customs Service to keep the borders safe.
“If the borders are safe and the Government enforces the bilateral and multilateral agreements it had signed with other countries, there won’t need to close the borders. Efforts should be stepped up to equip the Customs to live up to its responsibilities of protecting the borders and nip smuggling in the bud.”
He further stated that “at a time like this when unemployment rate is on the increase (23.1%), underemployment at 16.6% and expected to reach 33.5% by 2020, inflation rate now on upward trend, Government’s fiscal and monetary policies should focus on sustainable enterprise, job creation and rapid economic development premised on wide-range consultation with critical stakeholders.”