James Emejo in Abuja
The federal government yesterday reiterated that it was working with airport authorities to ensure that the newly-announced visa-on-arrival policy would allow for easier and faster processing of documents of persons and goods to encourage foreign investment.
The government also said it would launch an intervention programme for the country’s border communities in order to dissuade them from engaging in smuggling activities.
The initiative is also part of the current measures being put in place preparatory to a possible reopening of the nation’s land borders, which the federal government ordered its closure in August, to tame dumping and smuggling.
Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Niyi Adebayo, and the Minister of State in the ministry, Mrs. Mariam Katagum, spoke on the plans yesterday in Abuja during an interactive session with journalists.
Adebayo said the present administration had unflinching faith in made-in-Nigeria goods and would continue to encourage their production and patronage.
He stated that the current administration was willing to build on the blueprint of the immediate past administration in creating economic zones, adding, however, that “we are trying to avoid pitfalls that the last administration fell into and we are trying to do it in a way that it will not be controversial.”
He said: “We intend to invite people to come and set up their factories there to produce goods for exports and hopefully they’ll tag the goods as proudly made in Nigeria.”
Katagum, who provided an update on the continued border closure and efforts to engage the country’s neighbours on the issue, said the federal government had begun to engage with the local communities in order to sensitise them about the ills of smuggling.
She said part of the arrangement was to institute an empowerment programme for the communities so they could rechannel their energy to other legitimate endeavours.
She said discussions were ongoing with Jaiz Bank and the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) to work out “some intervention programmes so that these local communities would not engage in smuggling activities.”
She, however, said the borders would be reopened on the recommendation of a committee set up to monitor compliance with the ECOWAS trade treaty by its neighbours, particularly Benin Republic and Niger.
According to her, a joint border patrol has been agreed to by Nigeria and its neighbours involving all the security agencies to “try and follow the actual protocol laid by the ECOWAS.”
“And it is only when that committee is certain that all the countries are respecting the ECOWAS protocol-that the committee would recommend a date for the reopening of the border,” she added.
The minister said Nigeria was in the final stage of checking its exclusive and sensitive list and had been given till December 31 to finalise its negotiations and submit the list to the ECOWAS secretariat.
“There was a meeting in the ECOWAS commission with the three countries: Niger, Benin and Nigeria-basically to address the issues concerning the joint border patrol because one of the several things that led to the border closure is the issue of non-compliance with the ECOWAS treaty.
“Whereby goods that are supposed to come into the country, whichever axis you take, if they are coming from Benin or coming through Niger, are supposed to be escorted to our own customs at the border-intact and without breaking the seal.
“And as you are all aware, what has been happening is that you have containers arriving at our borders and the seals have been broken and so you don’t have integrity of the container.
“And not having integrity of that container meant there’s an opportunity to put in illegal items and more especially for us is the issue of small arms and weapons, drugs being sneaked in and the issue of source of origin whereby you have the items being repackaged and the claim is that they are produced in an African country,” she stated.