Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has urged the Nigerian Government to end border closure and partner with neighbouring countries to tackle smuggling.
Commenting on the closure of land borders by the government over smuggling and evasion of taxes, Falana said the endorsement of the act by the International Monetary Fund is a ploy to weaken ECOWAS regional integration agenda.
Delivering a paper on “Rule of Law, Good Governance and Economic Development” at the annual conference of the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Accra, Ghana, Falana argued that Nigeria risks retaliation from other countries by the closure of its borders.
Falana said, “Border closure is inconsistent with the letter and spirit of ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Residence and Establishment and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
“The endorsement of the IMF is a deliberate design to weaken the ECOWAS regional integration agenda.
“The borders should be reopened without any further delay as it cannot be sustained for too long without serious repercussions for the Nigerian economy.
“The neighbouring countries may retaliate by imposing a ban on goods being exported from Nigeria by air.
“They may also close down Nigerian banks and other businesses operating in other member states of ECOWAS.
“Instead of resorting to the unilateral closure of borders, the government should drag the Republics of Benin and Niger to the Court of Justice of the ECOWAS for breaching the ECOWAS Protocol by allegedly encouraging smuggling of petrol, rice and other products. In the alternative, smuggling should be addressed like terrorism which is being jointly combated by Nigeria and her neighbours.
“The government should expose the smugglers by arresting and prosecuting them. “Without official connivance, the crime of smuggling cannot thrive in the region.”