What Neighboring Countries Must Do Before Buhari Can Reopen Land Borders – Minister

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama

The Federal Government has listed five conditions for reopening of the country’s land borders for goods importation from neighboring countries. As one of the conditions, the Federal Government said Nigeria would not accept imported goods that were repackaged by neighboring countries and brought to Nigeria.

It said the conditions which would be presented to Benin and Niger Republic in two weeks, must be met before the Nigerian land borders would be re-opened. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, disclosed this during the meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Temporary Partial Closure of Land Borders in Abuja on Monday.

He insisted that neighboring countries must respect the Economic Community of West African States’ ‘rules of origin’ if they must bring goods into the country. The preconditions for both goods and humans coming into the country, however, applied to all ECOWAS member states.

Onyeama said that goods imported for the Nigerian market must be escorted directly from the port of member states directly to the nation’s land borders. Also at the meeting, the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs, Col. Hamid Ali (retd), said the January 31, 2020 date for re-opening of the borders was not sacrosanct.

Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, was also in attendance at the meeting which held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters, Abuja. Explaining the conditions, the foreign affairs minister said Nigeria would no longer tolerate repackaging of goods coming into the country.

He said that any goods imported from ECOWAS member states must have the 30 per cent local input in line with the value addition percentage under the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme. These conditions, the minister said, would be presented to Benin and Niger Republic at a tripartite meeting scheduled for next two weeks in Nigeria.

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He also said that the only travel document allowed for anybody coming into the country through the land borders is the passports, stressing that the country would not accept any other documents such as the identity card. Onyeama said, “So we (Nigeria committee) met to look at the situation and we have agreed on a set of conditions. Now, these conditions are as follows:

“That it is an absolute requirement of the government of Nigeria that any import coming through our land borders, when those imports transit in goods, that is to say when they are coming from outside the ECOWAS region and imported into an ECOWAS member state, that those goods should retain their original packaging.

“There should be no modification whatsoever to the packaging of those goods imported into an ECOWAS member state destined for Nigeria.” He added, “They (goods) must be escorted from the port directly to the designated entry point in Nigeria border, so presented to Nigeria customs with the packaging intact and those goods escorted.

“This is an absolute condition that will not be compromised; So any transit in goods coming into this country from transiting ECOWAS member state must ensure that. “For goods predominantly produced in ECOWAS member states, the rules of origin must be satisfied.”

Nigeria can’t be dumping ground, FG tells neigbouring countries Onyeama noted that the conditions were aimed at ensuring that the country did not end up a dumping ground. Besides, he noted that there must be a recognised proper transport system for the importation of goods into Nigeria.

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The minister noted that President Muhammadu’s Buhari’s desire was for the underlying issues that informed the border closure and the security drill to be addressed as quickly as possible. “So in this context within the next two weeks, a tripartite committee is to be convened and hosted here in Nigeria, comprising the delegation committee from Benin Republic, from Niger and from Nigeria.

“So each country will come with the heads of the ministries of foreign affairs, interior, finance, the customs, immigration and the National Intelligence Agency, the security segment. So this meeting will take place within the next two weeks,” the minister said.

Speaking on the ETLS, the FG said the goods coming from outside ECOWAS must have at least 30 per cent value addition from the ECOWAS member states. The minister stated, “So we would absolutely insist on the respect of ECOWAS rules of origin in ensuring that they actually did come from ECOWAS member states.

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