Nigeria’s borders must be protected, says minister

Interior Minister Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has said the loyalty of Nigerians to the country is non-negotiable.

The minister spoke on Thursday in Benin, the Edo State capital, at the opening ceremony of the Comptroller General of Immigration’s annual conference with the theme of the conference was: Migration Management in a Developing Economy: The Role of NIS.

He explained that in view of that, there was need for the nation’s border to be protected.

According to him, borders are political construct and because Nigerians share political, ethnic and cultural affiliations with the neighbouring countries does not mean the country should not protect its borders.

Aregbesola said: “Our loyalty to Nigeria is non-negotiable. So, we must protect our borders.”

He hailed President Muhammadu Buhari for closing the land borders.

The minister said the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) must ensure it delivers on providing world-class border and migration management services.

Aregbesola said the conference would examine the role of NIS not just in the security architecture of the country but also as a vital tool in the economic development of the country.

The minister stressed that towards achieving this economic development, the NIS had been given December 31 to deliver on efficient, error-free, seamless visa-on-arrival process.

He added that it was sacrosanct to expand the Nigerian economy through ease of doing business.

Aregbesola said the conference was also an avenue to appraise the services of the NIS over the years with a view to updating and upgrading them to meet global best practices.

The minister said Nigerian economy has large capacity to grow, hence the need for the citizens to work hard to increase the capacity of the country to generate revenue.

“We need to be committed to increase revenue generation for the country. NIS is a great economy supporting institution in the country,” he said.

NIS Comptroller General Mohammad Babandede said the theme of the conference was carefully chosen in view of the fact that previous conferences dwelt more on security.

Also, activist lawyer Mr Femi Falana (SAN) has urged the Federal Government to dialogue with neighbouring countries to jointly fight smuggling, which necessitated the border closure by Nigeria.

Falana said the Federal Government should ignore the endorsement of border closure by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) because “it is inconsistent with the letter and spirit of ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Residence and Establishment and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement”.

“The endorsement of the IMF is a deliberate design to weaken ECOWAS regional integration agenda,” he added.

The popular lawyer gave the advice while delivering a paper titled: Rule of Law, Good Governance and Economic Development, at the annual conference of the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Accra, Ghana.

His paper reads: “The borders should be reopened without any further delay as it cannot be sustained for too long without serious repercussions for the Nigerian economy.

“The neighbouring countries may retaliate by imposing a ban on goods being exported from Nigeria by air. They 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.”
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