The Nigeria Customs Service has said January 31, 2020, contained in a leaked memo is not terminal date for the border closure.
The Public Relations Officer, NCS, Mr Joseph Attah, confirmed the development in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday.
Attah said January 31, 2020, was only the end of the first phase of the operation, not the terminal date for the entire border closure. He said the borders would remain closed indefinitely until the objectives of the government for the operation had been fully achieved.
He said, “This is not the terminal date; it’s just for this phase. You know operations of this type are in phases. January 31, 2020, is the end of this phase. The exercise will continue until the set objectives are achieved.”
Attah added that security officers on the field would be notified of further development about the second phase of the border closure before January 31. Earlier, the Comptroller General, NCS, Hameed Ali, had declared that the borders would remain closed until Nigeria’s neighbours decided to respect ECOWAS protocol concerning trade within the subregion.
President Muhammadu Buhari, according to the memo, had approved the extension of the closure of the nation’s borders with neighbouring countries to January 31 next year. The operation, code-named Exercise Swift Response, had resulted in joint border patrols by a combined team of security agencies.
The Deputy Comptroller of Customs in charge of Enforcement, Investigation and Inspectorate, Victor Dimka, conveyed the presidential directive in a memo to the sector coordinators.
The memo, with reference number NCS/ENF/ABJ/221/S.45, and marked ‘Restricted’, was dated November 1, 2019. The memo, which was obtained on Sunday, said despite the overwhelming success of the operation, particularly the security and economic benefits to the nation, a few strategic objectives were yet to be achieved.
The memo read in part, “I am directed to inform you that it is observed that despite the overwhelming success of the operation, particularly the security and economic benefits to the nation, a few strategic objectives are yet to be achieved.
“Against this background, Mr President has approved the extension of the exercise to January 31, 2020.
“Consequently, you are requested to convey the development to all personnel for their awareness and guidance.
“Meanwhile, allowance for personnel sustenance and fuelling of vehicles for the period of extension will be paid as soon as possible.”
Businesses continue to suffer – LCCI
The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry has said the extension of the border closure will continue to hurt businesses, especially the Small and Medium Enterprises. It said this in a statement signed by the Director-General, Mr Muda Yusuf, on Sunday, a copy of which was made available to The PUNCH.
The statement said, “The chamber appreciates the concern of government regarding security and economic sabotage which informed the closure in the first place.
Pix: Hameed Ali