One year after the nation’s borders with her neighbours were shut under the aegis of a joint military and paramilitary exercise codenamed ‘Exercise Swift Response’, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has rated the exercise as “successful in boosting the country’s economy and security.”
The exercise is being carried out in the Northwest, Northcentral, Southwest, and Southsouth geo-political zones, with personnel drawn from the NCS and the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), in collaboration with the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) as well as the Nigeria Police (NP) and other security and intelligence agencies. It is being coordinated from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).
In giving this pass mark, indices like number of foiled smuggling operations, especially, were considered. In this effort, a total of 622 suspected smuggled goods valued at N11,030,062,952.50 have been seized in the ongoing exercise.
The spokesman for the NCS, who also doubles as the spokesman for the joint operation, Joseph Attah, a Deputy Comptroller of Customs, added that the closure has also contributed in addressing the nation’s security concerns and economy.
As at 31st August 2020, 1,243, irregular immigrants and 622 suspected smugglers have been arrested, while seizures include 134,042 bags of parboiled foreign rice; 9,600 bags of NPK fertiliser; 1,791 vehicles; 3,565,461.9 litres of PMS; 5,007 drums filled with PMS; 68,436.3 Jerricans of PMS; 130 engine boats; 847 motorcycles; 17,212.6 Jerricans of vegetable oil; 813 packs of Tramadol; 274 bags of cannabis; among other items. The estimated monetary value of the seizures is N11,030,062,952.50.
Attah described the exercise as one that is supportive of government drive to actualise national self sufficiency in food production particularly in areas of local rice cultivation and patronage. According to him, rice farmers in the country are presently venturing into other areas like milling and marketing owing to the success of the border closure exercise.
“One year into the ongoing joint border drill, codenamed ‘Exercise SWIFT RESPONSE ’, appreciable results have been recorded, particularly in the areas of security, economy, agriculture and inter-agency collaboration. It will be recalled that the exercise, which commenced on August 20, 2019 involves the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), in collaboration with the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) as well as the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and other security and intelligence agencies, under the coordination of the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).
He explained that through the exercise, the present administration, took a definitive step to put Nigeria on the path to food sufficiency, stem the flow of illicit arms into the country and improve national security. “Exercise SWIFT RESPONSE has also boosted production of agricultural products, especially local rice, tomatoes, maize, poultry e.t.c and this has stimulated the growth of the agricultural sector/economy. Today, Nigeria is fast attaining self-sufficiency in rice production, as the border drill has drastically reduced rice smuggling into the country and catalysed rice production by farmers across the country, while millions of direct and indirect jobs have been created. Huge amount in foreign exchange, that previously went into rice importation saved. The rice farmers in the country are now venturing beyond rice cultivation to milling, packaging and marketing,” Attah said, adding that the country has been saved huge resources and enhanced national security, especially in the area of smuggling of drugs and proliferation of small arms and light weapons which are drivers to terrorism and other forms of criminalities in the country.
“The exercise has also made it more difficult for terrorists and other criminals to acquire arms and ammunition, while criminal elements find it challenging to make their way into the country through the land and maritime borders. This has thus contributed to the reduction in cases of transnational organised crimes,” he further added.
Attah submitted that the priority remains keeping the country’s borders safe from any inimical activity that would compromise her national interests and by extension her national security, assuring that “Nigeria remains committed to the ongoing diplomatic engagements to finding lasting solutions to the concerns that necessitated the partial border closure.”