Nigeria, Benin and Niger announced on Thursday the formation of joint patrols against smuggling and the creation of a joint committee to boost trade after the tensions caused by Nigeria’s closure of its borders this summer. with his neighbors.
Several ministers, including the foreign ministers of the three countries, as well as the Trade Commissioner of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met Thursday at the headquarters of the regional organization in Abuja where they decided to set up joint patrols.
« The security forces – police, army, navy, customs, … of the three countries will patrol together under a joint force, » said a statement issued at the end of the meeting. They will meet on 25 and 26 November, where they will share their recommendations on a reopening of the borders closed in August by the West African giant.
Officials who met Thursday also decided to create a « monitoring and evaluation committee that brings together the three countries to encourage the eradication of contraband goods ».
This committee, which will include the ministers of finance and trade, « will promote regional trade between the three countries and put in place sanctions against smuggling (…) and trafficking in human beings, » said the statement .
This statement is Nigeria’s first sign of appeasement to its neighbors, three months after President Muhammadu Buhari unilaterally decided to close all land borders with his two neighbors and to ban the import and export of goods, officially to stop smuggling of rice and oil.
This decision, which the Beninese Minister of Agriculture had described as « catastrophic » for the small West African country, goes against all of the ECOWAS trade treaties, but Nigeria, a gigantic market of 190 million inhabitants, said that this closure would last « the time it will take our neighbors to come to the table discussions. »
Benin has benefited for decades from the illegal import of subsidized gasoline, which has cost the Nigerian government billions of dollars, says Abuja.
It also serves as a gateway for thousands of tons of rice, theoretically banned from land-based imports to encourage local production.
Border closures have resulted in very high commodity price inflation in the Nigerian markets, where all products now have to be imported through the port of Lagos, criticized for the inefficiency and rampant corruption of its managers.