Border closure economically senseless ― Falana

• Says closure has not stop smuggling

A human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, SAN has declared that the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government was allegedly misled into having the erroneous impression that only border closure can guarantee food security and economic development in the country.

Speaking with newsmen in Ilawe-Ekiti during the burial procession of  Mrs Ibijola Falana, the lawyer said it was wrong for President Muhammadu Buhari to have closed the border indefinitely without taking cognisance of the fact that such would inflict serious pains on the already burdened Nigerian citizens.

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He said, “I  don’t support the closure because it is illegal, immoral and economically senseless. It cannot be defended under the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons and Goods. Punishing millions of community citizens for the offence of a few smugglers is immoral. Contrary to the claim of the federal government that smuggling has stopped the criminals involved in the nefarious trade have merely changed tactics.

“Following incessant trans-border crimes including armed robberies and smuggling of vehicles from Nigeria to the Benin Republic in 2003, the Olusegun Obasanjo administration closed the land border between Nigeria and the Benin Republic for about a week.  Before the border closure, the federal government had investigated and confirmed that one Mr Ahmadu Tijanni, a highly influential citizen of Niger Republic based in Cotonou was the mastermind of the trans-border criminal activities.  Even though he was a sacred cow in the Benin Republic, Mr Tijanni was arrested by a team of the Nigeria Police.

” Tidjani was tried, convicted and jailed for armed robbery by the Ogun State High Court. In view of the fact that the Customs Service in the Benin Republic is hampered from collaborating with its Nigerian counterpart to stop the smuggling of goods from the Benin Republic to Nigeria, the Federal Government ought to report President Patrice Talon for using a private company to manage its Customs affairs. This is the only way to stop smuggling, not border closure alone,” he said.

Falana added that the National Assembly lacks the constitutional powers to promulgate any law under the guise of Hate Speech, saying such was not captured under the exclusive and concurrent lists of the 1999 constitution as amended.

He said, “The attention of the national assembly members ought to the fact that the Penal Code and Criminal Code applicable in the Northern and Southern states respectively have made provisions for hate speech because it is a state offence. Hence, the House of Assembly of each of the state has enacted laws against incitement, false accusation, sedition and criminal defamation.

No doubt,  the constitutional validity of the hate speech bill will be challenged in court if it is passed by the national assembly and assented to by President Buhari.

“Unfortunately, while the attention of Nigerians is fully concentrated on the hate speech bill, APC and PDP governors are using the Terrorism Prevention Act, Cybercrime Act, penal code and criminal code to suppress press freedom and freedom of expression in the country. The authorities of Cross River State, Akwa Ibom State, Kano State, Kaduna State, Katsina State, Delta State and Zamfara State have charged  opponents of governors with criminal offences including terrorism and treasonable felony.”

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