Smugglers continued to suffer huge losses as President Muhammadu Buhari in Yokohama, Japan confirmed the closure of Nigeria’s border with Republic of Benin, saying the measure was taken to stop smuggling of rice into the country.
Buhari at a meeting with President of Benin Republic, Mr. Patrice Tallon, on the sidelines of the ongoing seventh Tokyo International Conference for Africa Development (TICAD7) in Yokohama, explained that the border was shut by the federal government as a decisive measure to curb smuggling of foreign rice into the country.
According to ThisDay Newspaper, the meeting between Buhari and Tallon, which held behind closed doors at the Royal Park Hotel, was attended by Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama.
Speaking with Nigerian journalists after the meeting, Onyeama said Tallon expressed concern over the hardship the closure had caused his citizens and pleaded with Buhari to reopen it.
He said the border was closed because of the frequency of rice smuggling into the country through the borders, pointing out that the president saw the unwholesome development as a threat to Nigeria’s pursuit of food sufficiency.
“They were discussing the issue of the closure of the border. You may not know but Nigeria closed border with Benin and it is causing great difficulties for Benin. So, the president said he had to see our president as a matter of urgency and because of the great problem that it is causing.“They talked about the reason for the closure which essentially was about smuggling across the borders, especially rice smuggling, and Mr. President is extremely concerned that now that Nigeria through our agricultural policies has become self-sufficient in rice production that this is now threatened.”
But the minister said Buhari, following the concern expressed by his Benin Republic counterpart over the plights of his people as a result of the closure, promised to reopen the border in future but did not tell him the exact date he hopes to do so.