Port Consultative Council Backs Border Closure - THISDAY
BY Ugo Aliogo
Port Consultative Council (PCC) has backed the border closure measure of the federal government, while also urging government to put in place legal framework to address the issue of smuggling and insecurity across the country’s porous border.
Speaking at a meeting between Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC) and the stakeholders on the land closure, the Chairman, Port Consultative Council (PCC), Kunle Folarin, said the country was at a cross-road because of the issues raised by the border closure, and it is beyond the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
He said the issue had become a great concern for government because of the non-compliance to protocol, the great decline in trade movement, adding that the country and NSC must have a strategic development growth plan to resolve the issues.
“We have to look at the issue of illicit trade. It is probably smuggling and it raises some fundamental issues that concern our borders. Why are border countries crying about the closure, it is our border we closed, not their borders? There is the issue of non-compliance with protocols. All the cross border countries have signed protocols with Nigeria and presently, we are asking why the protocols should not be respected.
“The border countries were not forced to sign these protocols, therefore Nigeria is calling on them to obey the law. Nigeria will open the border if they open the protocols and codes of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) treaty. There is a great decline in trade movement and traffic is low over there. Nigeria habours 60 per cent of the economy of West and Central Africa, but why are we not involved in trade in that size? Non-compliance means that the border should remain closed, therefore I support government in that respect.
“We have 13 protocols and treaties, but how many persons are complying with these treaties and protocols that exists?
There is need to plan that we deal with the issue of revenue generation, cargo trafficking in the country, strike trade alliances with counterparts of other countries and that the strategic plan needs to be implemented,” he noted.
In his remarks, representative from NACCIMA, Aniete Bassey, said if the federal government was committed to be a major player in international trade, there was need for increased focus and commitment on its part.
He explained that the closure had exposed the security lapses across the country’s border, adding that “to get into international best practices, we need to open up our hearts. We need to subsidise the production end especially the issue of rice. You don’t close border, you raise traffic and this will push people out of importation.”
Earlier in his remarks, the Executive Secretary, NSC, Hassan Bello, said stakeholders in the maritime sector were concerned about the port after the closure, adding that though the closure caused pain, but the duty of NSC was to support the federal government in the area of improving international trade.
“The reason why the borders were closed is not temporary. Nigeria is looking inward in order to improve the economy. Our attitudes to things must change. We must see this as a sacrifice that must be borne by the people so that things will get better. We are talking about employment, growing the economy and revenue. We will continue to work to ensure that the infractions will not be repeated. One of the decisions reached after this meeting is to setup a strategic committee that will examine the issues reached.
Some of the concrete issues examined today was the need for us to look at the conventions, international trade is governed by international conventions. We have to examine the World Council Organisation (WTO), and ECOWAS protocols. There must be a review so that the obligations of the party are well known. There must also be compliance from the parties involved. Another issue is the effect of border closure on the sea ports. For now, most of the goods will be brought in by the sea that will mean increase in cargo, and congestions at the terminals, even congestions at the seas,” he said.
He added that the country cannot depend only on import, adding that there is need to embark on exporting goods and services like other countries.