The Nigerian Senate has assured border community dwellers to expect laws that allow them to source for essential food items and other basic necessities of life without having to exert themselves needlessly traveling outside of their localities in order to make such purchases; or to suffer needless wants.
Above assurances was given recently by the Senate Adhoc Committee on Customs and Excise during a meeting with stakeholders at the Seme-Krake border at the instance of the Committee, which expressed concern about the past policy issues that expose border dwellers to restrictions of trade items they could buy and move around with, and certain level of official high handedness by security operatives aimed at implementing the policy.
The senate further assured that it would engage with the government of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to see how some of the policies can be reviewed and made to be more accommodating to the needs of border community masses and to protect them against extremely harsh policies, noting that as Nigerians and human beings border citizens have the right to access basic necessities of life within the radius of their settlements; irrespective of national food security policies.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Customs and Excise, Senator Francis Fadahunsi, who said they were at Seme-Krake to find out the position of reported fracas between border community people and security agents, particularly men of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, however advised that border community dwellers should learn to cooperate more and live in peace with security operatives performing their statutory duties.
His words, “The leadership of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio, constituted this committee in response to rising crisis between border dwellers and the Customs and other security agencies, we need to stop these killings and fighting. The government cannot generate more revenue where there is fracas here and there, we need peace and that is why we have come to engage you to hear from you.
“Why are you killing yourselves? The other complaint is on rice and tokunbo vehicles. We want you to say it the way it is. We that have come here are your representatives. We have come here to hear you and to make serious recommendations so that you can live at peace. In some of the borders, the communities are contagious.”
He advised both the Customs, its sister security agencies and community stakeholders to exercise restraint and to meet regularly to evaluate situation and agree on what is acceptable, noting that two families or people are often separated by land borders, while calling on the Customs to be more circumspect in applying the laws.
“There must not be any disparity between the Republic of Benin and Nigeria. On the other side, we have Beninoures, here we have Nigerians. On the other side, half of the people are Yorubas, what do we do to ensure that the synergy to trade across the border does not amount to smuggling?
As long as they go around with small quantity of rice people want to eat, there shouldn’t be any problem. In some of the communities in the North and l think here too, the policy say no fuel, but the people need fuel for domestic purposes. Remember, you know what is not of commercial quantity.
“It is more a matter of common sense, some of these people have cultural affinity. One bag or half bag of rice or one jerrycan of fuel is of household consumption. It is left for you and border communities to know that that does not amount to smuggling.”
He also decried recurring skirmishes between citizens and Customs operatives of late with resultant human death, saying such does not make a nice image of Nigeria.“No government will be happy that citizens and security people are killing themselves over a bag of rice or keg of fuel. The rules of engagement are there, there are operational codes of ethics, among several other books of instruments.”
Two senators from Katsina State have reported the ordeals of some residents of the border towns in the area in the hands of security agencies, especially Customs over the smuggling of rice, refined petroleum products and used vehicles.