The Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, has expressed satisfaction with the decision of the federal government to close the land borders with the neighbouring countries, describing it as the only way through which Nigeria’s anti-smuggling laws could be enforced.
He stated this in Kano on Wednesday while briefing the press in his palace on the sideline of recent appointments into the National Economic Advisory Council by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He blamed the country’s porous land borders for high incidences of tax evasion, which according to him have been turned into escape routes from excise duties and tariffs as well as viable channels for diversion of petroleum products from the country.
The monarch emphasized that closing the borders remains the only option for the country to resuscitate its agricultural sector and develop its economy.
He said: “If you remember when the president came to Kano on official visit, I actually talk about closing the borders with the Republic of Benin. I always felt that if you really want to enforce laws that you have against smuggling, you need to close borders.
“You have petroleum products moving basically across the borders from Nigeria to neighbouring countries because of our fuel subsidies. You have goods coming in across the border using the port in Cotonou to avoid tax revenues in Lagos; so what happens is we don’t get the revenue from duties and tariffs and then we end up having the goods coming in anyway.
“Closing the borders becomes indispensable because our neighbouring countries are not helping us to protect our economy. For instance, if you want to protect rice farmers, you have to impose heavy taxation on importation of foreign rice into the country.
“Therefore, any country that allows smuggling of rice into Nigeria through its borders is doing that at the expense of our farmers who could not withstand competition with foreign producers. Besides rice and other food items, you must also understand that all the illicit drugs get into this country through the land borders.
“So sometimes it is important to take these difficult decisions so that we get the cooperation and collaboration of Customs officials across the borders. It is something that I wholeheartedly support. I think it is temporary and I think it will lead to improvement,” the monarch emphasised.
Commenting about the new economic advisory council, the Emir commended the president for choosing competent hands to serve in his economic advisory team, describing the team as first class group of professionals.
“If you look at the kind of system we operate, if you look at the United States, every US president always has a council of economic advisers, and one of the reasons you have that council is you could want independent academics who are able to give you frank and honest advice on how to run the economy and address its problems.
“What the president has done is to follow that pattern to appoint a team of highly respected professionals to advice him and this time we have economic problems when we have fiscal issues when the global economy is facing some crisis; it is extremely important that the president has high quality advice so this is to me one of the best things the government has done for the country and this team is first class team,” he added.