The Federal Government, through the Office of the National Security Adviser, which is coordinating the border closure exercise, has approved the release of over N314 million goods stuck at the Seme border, more than one year after President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the abrupt closure of Nigeria’s land borders.
The approval was contained in a letter signed by Major General E.A. Ndagi, on behalf of the National Security Adviser, dated 13th November, 2020, and addressed to the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali, (Rtd).
The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agent (ANLCA), Seme border chapter, had, in a letter to the NSA, appealed for the release of goods trapped at Seme.
The association argued that import duty had been paid on the goods before the abrupt border closure.
The letter from NSA, directed the NCS to facilitate release of the affected goods being cleared by members of ANLCA.
The letter reads:
“I am directed to respectfully refer to letter NCS/INV711/020/ABJ/HQ dated 9th November, 2020, and to convey the National Security Adviser’s approval for the release of goods held up at Seme border due to the ongoing partial border closure.
“The goods are being cleared by the Association of the Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) as detailed at Enclosure 1. Accordingly, the Nigeria Customs Service is kindly requested to facilitate the release in line with extant regulations.”
Last week, the Federal Government had granted approval to Dangote, BUA and an unnamed gas firm to resume export across the nation’s border. The “selective” approval to the three companies, however, met with controversy.
But with the latest approval for the release of goods stuck at the Seme border, there are strong indications that the government may be considering the full reopening of the nation’s land borders in no distant time.
In a statement, the President of ANLCA, Tony Iju Nwabunike, said the association, at a recent meeting in Abuja, had secured the government assurance to reopen the borders.
Nwabunike said it was worrisome that cargoes on transit and mobile assets like trucks laden with goods worth over N130 billion belonging to private businesses were trapped since August 18 when the borders were shut.
He noted that when AfCFTA regime takes effect January 2021, the Nigerian business community would be put at a disadvantage and shut out of trade with proximate countries of Benin Republic, Togo, Cameroon, Chad, Niger Republic and other West and Central African countries if the government does not reopen the borders.