James Emejo in Abuja
The Comptroller-General, Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) yesterday foreclosed any prospects of reopening the country’s borders which had been shut by the federal government since August, to curb smuggling and dumping by neighbouring countries.
His declaration came against a backdrop of external pressure, most from the Benin Republic for an end to the blockade, noting that the country must first consider its survival.
Speaking as the special guest of honour at the graduation ceremony of Senior Course three of the Nigerian Customs and Staff College, Gwagwalada, he said the country must take strategic steps to sanitise the system and put a stop to dumping of all manner of products before the commencement of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
He stressed that the country is blessed with a population of over 200 million that can consume all her products, and may not necessarily feel the immediate impact of lack of external patronage.
Ali stressed that China had managed to close its borders for over two decades and only emerged a stronger economy afterwards, adding that Nigeria must also lay the foundation for its growth to support industrialists to reason and grow.
Insisting on the continued border closure, he expressed hope that it will continue for a while “so that we cannot only sanitise our process but we can also lay the foundation for our growth and development because that is what we need to get our industrialists think and grow.”
He said:“If we don’t do that we are going to be in deep problem. By the time we begin to operate the African Continental Free Trade, Nigeria will be a dumping ground for every product from Africa. So, we need to be able to develop our capacity to be able to meet our requirements in terms of goods and services so that we can keep at bay the influx of other goods.”
“If we don’t, these goods will come and our industries will continue to die. So we look forward to a situation whereby our industrialists will capitalize on this drill that we are doing so that they can grow and provide those things that we need. The Chinese closed their doors for over 20 years and now they are on top.”
The customs boss said:“We need to close our own. There is nothing that is being produced today that we cannot consume in Nigeria. Our industrialists do not have to look outward to find the market, we have it right here. And we need to grow that market.
“I hope that Nigerians will agree with us that while we are doing this drill, I know that our neighbours are in a haste to get us open the borders, I think we need to look at our strategic interest first before looking at other people.”
He added:“I remember that I always tell people when they confront me that why are you doing this to our neighbours, I say look even in the aircraft if they say when there is an oxygen mask dropping even your own child, they say put your own oxygen mask before your own child, this is because you have to save yourself to get the child to survive. We must as Nigerians survive and flourish for our neighbour to also flourish.”