HUMAN Rights lawyer Femi Falana has advised Federal Government to reopen the border with no delay, as its closure cannot be sustained for too long without serious repercussions for the Nigerian economy
Falana gave the advice while delivering a paper on Rule of Law, Good Governance and Economic Development at the annual conference of the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Accra, Ghana.
He asked that the government to ignore the endorsement of border closure by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as the closure was inconsistent with the letter and spirit of ECOWAS Protocol.
The ECOWAS protocol according to him was hinged on Free Movement of Persons, Residence and Establishment and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
He posited that the endorsement of the IMF is a deliberate design to weaken the ECOWAS regional integration agenda.
Falana said there was a need for the Federal Government to urgently dialogue with neighbouring countries to fight the menace of smuggling which necessitated the country’s border to be closed.
He said this was imperative, because neighbouring countries may retaliate by imposing a ban on goods being exported from Nigeria by air, and may also close down Nigerian banks and other businesses operating in other member states of the ECOWAS.
“Instead of resorting to the unilateral closure of borders the federal government should drag the Republics of Benin and Niger to the Court of Justice of the ECOWAS for breaching the ECOWAS Protocol by allegedly encouraging the smuggling of petrol, rice and other products,: he said.
“In the alternative, smuggling should be addressed like terrorism which is being jointly combated by Nigeria and her neighbours.”
The human rights lawyer added that Nigeria should stop punishing law-abiding corporate bodies and community citizens because of the criminal activities of a few trans-border smugglers.
“The Federal Government should expose the smugglers by arresting and prosecuting them. The smugglers in Nigeria and the neighbouring countries are well known by the security agencies. Without official connivance, the crime of smuggling cannot thrive in the region,” Falana said.
He called on the Federal Government to take advantage of the ECOWAS Protocol Relating to the Re-exportation within ECOWAS of goods imported from third countries, beyond monitoring the borders with technology.
“Under the Protocol Benin, Togo and Ghana are only entitled to charge administrative fees in respect of goods whose destination is Nigeria,” he said.
He commended the ECOWAS Court for protecting the human rights of community citizens, whilst he asked member states to desist from disregarding the judgments and orders of the Court.
“Other leaders should emulate President Nana Akuffo-Addo who has ordered the Attorney- General and Minister of Ghana to ensure compliance with all decisions of the Court.
“The ECOWAS Commission should ensure that sanctions are imposed on recalcitrant member states in line with the ECOWAS Revised Treaty and the Protocol of the Community Court,” Falana said.
Earlier in August, the Federal Government had announced the partial closure of the Seme border for a total clamp down on smuggling and other illegal activities.
However, a few weeks ago, the border was officially closed to all forms of businesses across borders, inciting reactions from Nigerians who described the measure as the crudest and retrogressive decisions of the present administration.
A report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) stated that the nation’s inflation rate had declined from 11.08 per cent in July to 11.02 per cent in August, barely 11 days of 31 days for any significant impact to be felt either way on prices.
Conversely, the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) said the closure of the country’s borders “is in order and long overdue”.
The Director-General of the Association in Niger State, Adamu Salihu enjoined the Federal Government to utilize the opportunity to reform the nation’s ports.
He asked that the government resist any pressure from any quarters for the reopening of the borders.