Contrary to reports circulating in certain media outlets, Comptroller Dera Nnadi mni, the head of the Tincan Island Port Command within the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), has underscored that the reopening of Nigerian borders for the importation of goods is not an automatic process.
Nnadi made this clarification during a recent press briefing in Lagos. His remarks were prompted by an agreement signed between the customs administrations of Nigeria and Benin Republic.
This agreement aimed to establish frameworks for the clearance of goods destined for Nigeria in Benin Ports and vice versa. The collaboration between the two customs agencies seeks to bolster trans-border security and facilitate the regulation of trade between the two nations.
Following the agreement’s signing in Abuja, some media outlets incorrectly interpreted it as an indication that Nigeria had reopened its previously closed borders for business. They subsequently reported this misleading information.
To provide clarity on the matter, the Comptroller of Customs explained that the events in Abuja merely involved the signing of an agreement to create a framework for implementation. He further emphasized that a committee would be established, and the government would need to endorse the framework before any reopening would occur.
“So, it’s just like an idea based on the fact that it is already working elsewhere. Other countries in Africa, particularly in East Africa, are doing some of these things. In the Central African Republic, you go from your own port to another person’s port and examine containers. They do this thing before it comes to your own place. That is regional integration.
“For those of you that travel intercontinental, if you fly Lufthansa from here, they will check you in Nigeria, the next check they will do with you is at Frankfort and once they check you in Frankfort, nobody checks you again in any European countries. That is exactly what we want to do.
“You are carrying potatoes from Denmark to Belgium, once they check you at the border between Denmark and Belgium, until that potato enters London, France, Brazil, nobody checks you again. That is the EU. Why can’t we do it here? We are the ones making things look difficult.
“So, answering your question, it is not automatic. Please don’t go and import cars and say that the border has been reopened. Don’t go and import rice, we are not even bringing rice, they are saying that they will stop importing rice for our sake since we don’t want it.
“Another committee will be set up to work out all these things, it is not as if it is automatic, no! It is not as if we will wake up tomorrow and say go to Cotonou and clear goods, no! They are only making a proposal and we both signed to commit to that proposal if the committee works out how to achieve it. That is just what we have done, not that tomorrow morning, we just go to Cotonou and open the floodgates.
“Nobody has opened the border for imports to start coming. The framework is yet to be worked out. Though we gave a deadline, I think, the first framework will start on the 29th, the committee will be set up and the terms of reference will be given to them by 29th of September (2023) so that they will start sitting while the ICT people are meeting”, he clarified.