President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday explained that the partial closure of Nigeria’s border with the Benin Republic was due to the massive smuggling activities, especially of rice, taking place on that corridor.
President Buhari stated this when he had an audience with his Beninois counterpart, Patrice Talon, on the margins of the Seventh Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD7), in Yokohama, Japan on Wednesday.
The President, who expressed great concern over the smuggling of rice, said it threatened the self-sufficiency already attained due to his administration’s agricultural policies.
According to him, “Now that our people in the rural areas are going back to their farms, and the country has saved huge sums of money which would otherwise have been expended on importing rice using our scarce foreign reserves, we cannot allow smuggling of the product at such alarming proportions to continue.”
President Buhari in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina said the limited closure of the country’s western border was to allow Nigeria’s security forces develop a strategy on how to stem the dangerous trend and its wider ramifications.
Responding to the concerns raised by President Talon on the magnitude of suffering caused by the closure, President Buhari said he had taken note and would reconsider reopening in the not too distant future.
He, however, disclosed that a meeting with his counterparts from Benin and Niger Republics would soon be called to determine strict and comprehensive measures to curtail the level of smuggling across their borders.
President Talon had earlier called on the Nigerian President to reconsider the closure as a result of the severe impact it was having on his people.
In another development, President Buhari received in audience, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa during which issues of common bilateral relations especially, the killings of Nigerians in South Africa, were discussed.
The matter will be further examined during the Nigerian leader’s official visit to Pretoria in October 2019. (Vanguard)