The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), which is coordinating the border closure exercise, has approved the release of over N130 billion goods stuck at the Seme border, more than one year after President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the abrupt closure of the borders.
The approval was conveyed in a letter signed by Major General E.A. Ndagi, on behalf of the National Security Adviser, dated November 13, 2020, and addressed to the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali.
National President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Iju Tony Nwabinike, had recently expressed worries that trucks laden with goods worth over N130 billion belonging to private businesses have been trapped since August 18, 2019, when the borders were shut.
Similarly, the Seme Chapter of ANLCA had in a letter to the National Security Adviser appealed for the release of goods trapped at the border. The Association argued that import duty had been paid on the goods before the abrupt border closure.
The letter from ONSA directed the NCS to facilitate release of the affected goods being cleared by members of ANLCA. The letter reads in part: “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 ANLCA as detailed at Enclosure 1. Accordingly, the Nigeria Customs Service is kindly requested to facilitate the release in line with extant regulations.”
Meanwhile, some of the transporters whose vehicles were at the borders applauded the development describing it as long overdue. Some of them who spoke with The Guardian, said a lot of their cargoes, which are consumables were rotting away and damaged, while those who still have their cargoes intact are currently following up on the modalities with the Customs.
With the latest approval for the release of goods stuck at the Seme border, the government may be considering the full reopening of the nation’s land borders in no distant time.
Nwabunike had earlier said the Association has received the government’s assurances for consideration to rescind on the border closure, to enable the Nigerian business community to maximize the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
He noted that when AfCFTA regime takes effect in January 2021, Nigerian businesses 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.