President Muhammadu Buhari has disclosed that the partial closure of Nigeria’s border with Benin Republic was aimed at stopping reckless smuggling activities.
Buhari who listed rice as one of the major commodities being smuggled on a massive scale into the country through Benin Republic gave the reason during a meeting with his Beninois counterpart Patrice Talon.
The two West African leaders met in Japan ahead of the 7th Tokyo International Conference for African Development in Yokohama, which began on Wednesday.
In a statement issued in Abuja on Wednesday by Mr Femi Adesina, the President’s spokesman, Buhari expressed great concern over the large scale of smuggling of rice.
He told Talon that smuggling was a setback for the agricultural policies of his administration, especially self-sufficiency in food production.
“Now that our people in rural areas are going back to their farms,the country has saved huge sums of money, which would otherwise have been expended on importing rice using our scarce foreign reserves, we cannot allow smuggling of the product at such alarming proportions to continue,” Buhari was quoted as telling Talon.
The statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, added, “President Buhari said the limited closure of the country’s western border was to allow the security forces develop a strategy on how to stem the dangerous trend and its wider ramifications.
“Responding to the concerns raised by President Talon on the magnitude of suffering caused by the closure, President Buhari said he had taken note and would reconsider reopening in the not too distant future.
“He, however, disclosed that a meeting with Benin and Niger Republic presidents would soon be called to determine strict and comprehensive measures to curtail the level of smuggling across their borders.”