FG lists conditions for reopening of borders

• January 31 not sacrosanct ― Customs CG

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, on Monday, listed conditions that must be met by member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), for Nigeria to consider reopening of her borders.

Among others, the conditions include that there should be no modification to the packaging of goods coming from outside the ECOWAS region and imported into an ECOWAS member state destined for Nigeria.

In addition to the original packaging being maintained, goods must be escorted directly from the port of member states to the designated entry point on Nigerian borders and presented to the Nigeria Customs with the packaging intact.

Onyeama stated these during an Inter-Ministerial meeting held ahead of the Tripartite Anti-Smuggling Committee meeting to be held between Nigeria, Benin and Niger Republics.

To forestall dumping of goods in Nigeria, the conditions also include that goods produced in ECOWAS member states must be those goods produced in the majority in those countries.

He stressed that the country would be insisting on compliance with the ECOWAS Rules of Origin of promotion of trade among countries of the sub-region such that goods coming from outside ECOWAS must show value addition of over 30 per cent to an ECOWAS country.

Onyeama said a meeting would be hosted in Abuja where the Memorandum of Understanding would be sealed between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and counterparts from neighbouring states.

“We have had a meeting under the directive of Mr President regarding the border measures that have been taken, the border drills that have been undertaken by Nigeria. And of course, repercussions of those and the desire of Mr President that the issues that are being addressed that caused the drill to take place on our borders should be addressed as quickly as possible.

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“So, in this context, within the next two weeks, a tripartite committee is to be convened and hosted here in Nigeria comprising a delegation, a committee of Benin Republic, from Niger, and from Nigeria.

“So, each country will come with the heads of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Finance, the Customs, Immigration and NIA, the security segment. So, this meeting will take place within the next two weeks.”

“These conditions or conditionalities are as follows: That it is an absolute requirement of the Government of Nigeria that any imports coming through the land borders, our land borders, when those imports are transit in goods, that is to say when they are coming outside the ECOWAS region and imported into an ECOWAS member state, that those goods should retain their original packaging.

“There should be no modification whatsoever to the packaging on those goods imported into an ECOWAS member state destined for Nigeria. So, the original packaging and they must be escorted from the port directly to the entry point, designated entry point on Nigerian borders, so presented to Nigeria Customs, with the packaging intact and those goods escorted. This is an absolute precondition that will not be compromised.

“So, any transit in goods coming to this country than those transit countries, ECOWAS member states, must ensure that.”

“So, we have to avoid any possibility of dumping. So, if goods are produced in ECOWAS member states, those goods must be in majority produced in those countries or if they are coming from outside ECOWAS, the value addition made by an ECOWAS country must be over 30 per cent for it to be accepted within the framework of the Economic Trade Liberalisation Scheme that ECOWAS countries have to promote trade amongst ourselves.”

“So, we will absolutely insist on the respect of the ECOWAS Rules of Origin, ensuring that they actually do come from within an ECOWAS member state in large part.”

“So, we have to avoid any possibility of dumping. So, if goods are produced in ECOWAS member states, those goods must be in majority produced in those countries or if they are coming from outside ECOWAS, the value addition made by an ECOWAS country must be over 30 percent for it to be accepted within the framework of the Economic Trade Liberalisation Scheme that ECOWAS countries have to promote trade amongst ourselves.”

“So, we will absolutely insist on the respect of the ECOWAS Rules of Origin, ensuring that they actually do come from within an ECOWAS member state in large part,” Onyeama said.

The meeting also had in attendance Comptroller-General of Customs, Colonel Hameed Ali ( rtd); the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola; the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Rufai Abubakar; Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubairu Dada, amongst others.

In his own remarks, Comptroller-General of Customs, Colonel Hameed Alli (rtd) said the January 31, 2020 given as likely date for the reopening of the nation’s borders was not sacrosanct.

According to Alli, the date could be extended if the nation’s neighbours failed to meet conditions set by Nigeria.

“The issue of 31st January is an operational programme. What we do in operations like this is that you set time for logistics and other tactical requirements.

“So, the issue of 31st January is not a terminal date. If all these things are put together and we reach an agreement, we could even relax all these things before 31st of January. So, it is not sacrosanct, but it is not a terminal date. We can also surpass January 31st and still hold on to what we are doing,” Alli said.

The conditions

• …no modification whatsoever to the packaging on goods imported into an ECOWAS-member state destined for Nigeria.

• “…with the original packaging they must be escorted from the port directly and transferred to the Nigeria Customs Service.

• “For goods predominantly produced in ECOWAS-member states, the rules of origin must be certified, so we have to avoid any possibilities of dumping.

• “…if goods are produced in ECOWAS member states, those goods must be in majority produced in those countries or if they are coming from outside ECOWAS the value addition made by an ECOWAS country must be over 30 per cent.

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