Border Closure: A Tale of Two Cities

During the penultimate week, a member of the House of Representatives representing Daura/Mai’adua/Sandamu Constituency, Katsina State, Fatuhu Muhammed, stunned Nigerians when he made a startling revelation over the unending border closure exercise in the North.
On the floor  of the lower chamber of the National Assembly, Muhammed said smuggling activities are still going on in the North, unabated ,especially at the backyard of President Muhammadu Buhari’s  Daura country home.
In a shocking details, the law maker said the border closure was a mirage in the North as people, goaded, aided and abetted by security agents, are having a field day.
 “I was ambushed by the committees in Daura due to the hardship they are facing there as a result of the closure of the border and ban on supply of fuel within 20 kilometres on instruction given by the Customs.
“From Daura to Kongolam, which is the international border, it is just 18 kilometres, in fact from Mr President’s house, even his bedroom to the border is just 13 kilometres. We all know that the borders are closed, but they still allow things to go in and out. I am a living witness to that. A day before yesterday, I was there around 1am, nobody knew, but I saw what they were doing.
“So the Customs needs to be invited here and questioned. We need to know what is going to happen before you take any instruction; such very weighty orders to shut down the borders 20 kilometres.
“Please I need the support from each and every member, things are happening at the border despite the fact that they are closed, they are not closed, they pay each car in the night to go in and each car in the night to come in from Niger. We should not deceive ourselves. If we want to do the right thing, let’s do it and if we are not going to, let’s allow it”.
That was the testimony of Fatuhu Muhammed,  said to be the nephew of President Buhari.
But in a  sharp contrast to the disturbing details of Muhammed, the border closure in the Southwest is total and its effects biting, ruthless and devastating.
Just like many Nigerians, we have no reason not to believe the distinguished law maker, more so when he knows the gravity of his comments as a member of the legislative house and a member of the ruling political party, All Progressives Party(APC).
So he has no reason to embellish or exaggerate the situation in the North as regards the border closure.
It is on the strength of the  inviolability of Mohammed accounts that we feel disturbed by the glaring disparity in the enforcement of order on border closure between the South and North.
The revelation of the law maker has only confirmed  the wide spread insinuation that the Customs and its collaborating sister agencies on Operations EX-SWIFT RESPONSE  have orders to tighten the noose on the southern borders but relax the strangulating grip on the Northern borders.
Though we are not given to indulging in banal insinuations and unsubstantiated claims, but events that have happened at the South-West borders of Seme and Idi Iroko since the border closure  has made us to begin to query the sincerity of the whole exercise and tend to ask in whose interests are all these being done?
We shall not however be drawn  to believe, no matter how tempting the thought is, that the exercise in the Southwest borders was stringently and meticulously being applied with the inherent desire to castrate the southern businesses.
This is more so when these happenings are juxtaposed with the rendition of the Honourable member from Katsina State.
Though we have our reservations on the border closure, we aligned with the modest achievements recorded as a result of strict enforcement of the order which has resulted to the complete decapitation of smuggling activities in the South West borders of Seme and Idi Iroko.
This is notwithstanding the legitimate businesses allowed to suffer for which we have advocated for the readjustment of the scope of the operations.
However, with the revelations made by the law maker which tend to suggest that the Ex-Swift Response team was on holiday in the Northern borders, we are tempted to begin to doubt the sincerity of purpose and objectives of the exercise.
The border closure has become a tale of two cities where different laws apply.
Shortly after the revelations made by the law maker, two video clips of women being harassed and frisked by Customs offices for ” smuggling” few Dericas of rice emerged on the social media.
In one of the video clips, a young woman in red flowing gown on jeans trousers, was  seen in a lonely part of Seme border at night being frisked by excited motley gathering of customs officers.
In the video, which trended briefly before it was pulled down due to public outrage, the woman was humiliated for concealing few Dericas of rice on her body, evidently meant to feed herself and possibly starving children.
The second video clip contained a similar insidious behaviour of Customs officers in an unidentified location, where they were frisking two older women who similarly hid few Dericas of rice to feed their impoverished family.
In as much as we don’t condone any infraction against the law, no matter how minute and insignificant it may seem to be, we are however disgusted and appalled by the extent these customs officers could go to dehumanise the  hapless women who were inadvertently pushed to resorting to hiding few Dericas of rice in the inner recess of their bodies due to the biting effects of the  border closure in the South-West.
Conversely, their contemporaries in the North are not so harassed, hounded and frisked as they have wide latitude to bring in  not Derica of rice hidden in their bodies but bags of the banned items brought in broad day light.
Before we are accused of hate speech, our observation was based on what the respected law maker divulged in public space.
We are not only disturbed at this apparent unequal application and implementation of the order of border closure in all the affected geo-political zones in the country, we are saddened by the de-facto status which the Customs Comptroller-General has assigned to himself over the exercise.
We have noted rather shockingly that the Ex-Swift response border exercise that was supposedly initiated and being coordinated by the office of the National Security Adviser(NSA) to the President, has been hijacked by Customs helmsman, Col.Hameed Ali(rtd).
Ali now determines when the border will be opened and the conditions for their reopening.
As we observed in our earlier editorial, the President and the NSA may have lost initiatives on the border closure to Ali who now calls the shot.
More troubling is the fact that the Customs authority has so far kept mute over the indicting statement made  by Honourable Mohammed on the floor of the House.
In a saner society, the Customs authority would have taken steps to redeem its image by setting the  records straight over the activities and operations of Ex-swift response  exercise in the  North, which many have dismissed as a charade.
We enjoin the Customs authority to prove the law maker wrong in his assertion by giving as much attention to the Northern borders as they give the borders in the South-West.
The Ex-swift response team should not apply and implement  different  laws at the borders  in the South-West and the Northern borders.
The joint border response team should be fair and just in the application and implementation of the order to all affected borders in the country.
There should not be sacred cows and reincarnation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm where some animals are more equal than others

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