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Nigeria, Benin Republic, Niger for joint border patrol against smuggling

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A joint patrol team comprising
Nigeria, Benin and Niger Republic will set up a date for the opening of the
borders, the countries said on Thursday.

The patrol team was set up by the
tripartite committee of the three countries on border closure.

Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama,
who read a communique at the end of a four-hour meeting, said the team will
advise on modalities for a joint border patrol.

Onyeama explained that there was
consensus on mechanisms towards re-opening of the border.

He said: “We have agreed to put in
place certain mechanisms that would enable us to open the borders; there was
consensus on that.

“We have agreed to set up a joint
border patrol so the three countries would send a list of officers that would
be part of the joint border patrol team.

“Security agencies, like Immigration, Customs,
are going to meet on November 25 and 26.

“They would look at the modalities of
implementing the whole regime of anti-smuggling regulations that have been
agreed upon. After the two-day meeting, we are hoping they would be able to
recommend formally for the re-opening of the borders.”

On other decisions reached at the
meeting, he said they include the “Establishment of a Monitoring and Evaluation
Committee” of the three countries, comprising of ministers of Finance, Trade,
Foreign Affairs, Customs, Immigration and National Security Adviser (NSA), with
the mandate to ensure actions that would facilitate and enhance the suppression
of smuggled goods and other related matters.

Onyeama added: “The Monitoring and
Evaluation Committee is to ensure the full implementation of the adopted
mandate of the joint anti-smuggling human trafficking g committee.

“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. “To ensure persons from the
three countries enter/exit each other’s states with valid ECOWAS recognised
travel documents through recognised controlled posts.”

The meeting, Onyeama said, “took note
of the mandate of the committee which includes inter alia, measures and actions
that would facilitate and enhance the suppression of rice smuggling and other
prohibited items along with breed of the three countries.”

On anti-smuggling issues, he said:
“The meeting deliberated on the myriad of challenges faced by the three
countries, especially 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
plethora of illegal warehouses along the border corridors.

“In this regard, 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.

“In conclusion, the countries
reaffirmed their commitment to enhancing economic integration.”
Responding to the question if
concerns that led to border closure is being addressed, Onyeama said: “We
believe if all the commitments that were made today by the three countries were
kept, going forward, the problem would be minimal compared to what it is.”

On the impact of border closure,
Onyeama noted, “The impact is been severe, border closure always has an impact,
at the end of the day, it is about the mischief we are addressing.

“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 said the country High
Commissioner in Ghana is engaging with the government of Ghana over the threat
to Nigerian traders.

He said. “Our high commissioner there
is engaging with the government of Ghana, we are in touch, the ministry of
foreign affairs with the leadership of the Nigerian traders in Accra, Ghana and
there is no threat as we understand it, to their physical safety.”
The Nation.

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