Uche Usim, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the extension of the joint border operations code-named Exercise Swift Response which has led to the total shutdown of land frontiers across the country.
The land borders are expected to be reopened on January 31, 2020, thus dashing the hopes of entrepreneurs in the West African region who were optimistic that the Nigerian government will end the military exercise before Christmas.
In a circular dated November 1, 2019 (NCS/ENF/ABJ/221/S.45) and signed by the Comptroller of Customs in charge of enforcement, Victor David Dimka, to the Sector Coordinators, joint border operations drill (Exercise Swift Response), Sectors 1, 2, 3 & 4, it directed them to note the new development and comply accordingly.
The circular reads:
“I am directed to inform you that it is observed that despite the overwhelming success of the operation, particularly the security and economic benefits to the nation, a few strategic objectives are you to be achieved.
“Against this background, Mr President has approved the extension of the exercise to January 31,2020.
“Consequently, you are requested to convey the development to all personnel for their awareness and guidance.
“Meanwhile, allowance for personnel sustenance and fuelling of vehicles for the period of extension will be paid as soon as possible.
“This is for your information and necessary action, please.”
On August 20, the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Hameed Ali, announced the commencement of “Exercise Swift Response”, a joint operation involving all military, paramilitary and intelligence agencies, in government’s efforts to sanitise the land borders that have become notorious for cross border smuggling that assumed frightening proportions in recent times.
While contraband worth over N1.4 billion has been seized and various arrests made since the crackdown against smugglers began, some economic analysts say the heart of the problem is a network of wealthy smuggling cartels facilitated by corrupt border officials, which the government needs to urgently address.
More so, entrepreneurs who depend on legitimate trans-border trade are gnashing their teeth as their economic fortunes have taken a hit since the closure of the land borders.