Nigeria and neighbors Benin and Niger have agreed to set up a joint border patrol force to tackle smuggling among the West African countries.
Foreign ministers from the three countries met to discuss smuggling after a decision by Nigeria, which has Africa’s largest economy and biggest population, to close its land borders to trade until at least January 31, 2020.
Nigeria launched a partial border closure to tackle the smuggling of rice and other goods. After that, all trade via land borders was halted indefinitely.
The joint communique from the meeting in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, said Benin’s and Niger’s delegations had appealed for the immediate reopening of the borders.
The concerns were noted, and the delegates agreed on the “establishment of a joint border patrol team comprising the police, customs, immigration, navy and state security services of the three countries,” the communique said.
Delegates also agreed that the ministers of finance and trade from the countries would set up a committee to promote intraregional trade, and they said they would ensure that people crossing their borders would display travel documents recognized by the Economic Community of West African States regional bloc.
Since taking office in 2015, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has introduced policies aimed at curbing imports and smuggling to boost local production. Despite being Africa’s top crude oil producer, Nigeria imports most of its refined fuel due to the moribund state of its refineries.
About 10% to 20% of Nigerian fuel is smuggled to neighboring countries, according to the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, because gasoline is heavily subsidized in the country and prices are higher in neighboring countries.