Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Paulinus Aidoghie, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has said in two months of border closure to curb smuggling activities, domestic fuel consumption had dropped by more than 30 percent.
He made the disclosure while receiving a delegation of Katsina State Elders Forum at his country home in Daura.
Buhari who said his administration was betting on the same measure to rekindle the agriculture sector, said the directive to shut border will save the country billions of naira on import bills.
According to a statement by Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, Buhari said he had not given any date for the reopening of the land border until the situation improves.
He commended the actions taken by the President of Niger Republic, Muhammadou Youssoufou, including the dismissal of officials and a ban on use of the country as a dumping ground for Nigeria-bound smuggled goods.
He acknowledged the hardship of border communities following the ban on the sale of fuel at stations 20 kilometers to the border, a restriction that also saw to the closure of all fuel stations in his native home, Daura.
‘’Farmers must be protected. Dishonesty is deep-rooted in the country. Otherwise, the border closer would not have been warranted,” he said.
According to him, the restriction was a temporary measure as the Nigerian Customs Service needed to ascertain outlets involved in the real sale of products and those being used for smuggling.
President Buhari told the delegation that he intends forging ahead with poverty alleviation schemes and the agricultural and livestock reforms started by the administration in the first term since the election was behind him and a government now in place.
Buhari explained that the reforms, especially those relating to the settlement of livestock herders would take time to accomplish, assuring that his deliberate choice of tested farmers as his past and current ministers of agriculture was informed by the need to carry his vision through.
Earlier in his remark, the representative of the Chairman of the Elders Forum, Alhaji Aliyu Saulawa, commended the achievements of President Buhari and Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State in curbing the menace of bandits, kidnappers and cattle rustlers.
While visiting Jibia Border, Katsina State (Sector Four, North West) as part of the assessment of the ongoing border drill in the country, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, insisted that the closure of the nation’s borders was not targeted at any region in the country.
His remarks are coming after last week uproar on the floor of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament over the closure of the borders. The Speaker of the Parliament, Mustapha Cisse Lo, who had consistently condemned the closure, joined delegations from other countries to insist on the reopening of the borders.
But speaking yesterday, Mohammed said: “This exercise is not targeted at any region in the country, neither is it designed to cripple businesses in any part of the country as some conspiracy theorists have been insinuating.
“As a matter of fact, since the exercise commenced over three months ago, local businesses across the country have continued to thrive as farmers and rice millers, in particular, are now having turnover on investments.”