President Muhammadu Buhari has said that Seme border was a major rice smuggling artery which prompted the federal government decision to shut it down.
Buhari during his meeting with Beninois counterpart, Patrice Talon, at the Seventh Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD7), holding in Yokohama, Japan, said the border was a major smuggling route for banned items into Nigeria.
He said the border has become a haven for smuggling of rice into Nigeria.
In a statement, the President’s spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina said the President is worried about smuggling of rice into the country.
According to him, activities of the smugglers have become a threat to the self-sufficiency efforts in the area of agriculture by the President.
The statement reads: “Now that our people in the rural areas are going back to their farms, and the country has saved huge sums of money which would otherwise have been expended on importing rice using our scarce foreign reserves.
“We cannot allow smuggling of the product at such alarming proportions to continue”.
Government had last week announced the measure to close the nation’s land borders.
Operatives of the Police, Nigeria Customs Service and Immigration Service are enforcing the order.
Foreigners who were allowed to cross the border were required to submit photocopies of their travelling documents to show that they have genuine business in Nigeria.
Affected travelers said the closure was against the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) treaty which allows movement from one country to another with the sub-region.
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) had launched a joint operation exercise to address issues of insecurity in the nation’s border stations.
Code-named Ex-Swift Response, the joint operation will tackle all security issues in border areas.
Public Relations officer of the Customs Service, DC Joseph Attah in a statement said the security measure is being coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).
Attah explained that the security measure will take place in the South-South, South-West, North-Central and North-West.
Incidentally, Attah had also claimed that the border was not closed.