Nigeria, Niger and Benin agree to tackle smuggling after border closure

Nigeria, Niger and Benin on Thursday agreed to set up a monitoring and patrol bodies to tackle smuggling, after months of border closure and dispute between the West African countries.

In a meeting in the Nigerian capital Abuja representatives of the joint anti-smuggling committee, including the foreign ministers of the three countries, and the Trade Commissioner of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas agreed to establish “monitoring and evaluation committee… to enhance the suppression of smuggled goods”.

The ministers agreed that a joint border patrol team comprising naval, customs, immigration and security officials from the three countries would meet later in the month “to recommend a date for the opening of the borders,” a statement released after the meeting said.

In August Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy shut its land borders with Niger and Benin, to curb the smuggling of large quantities of rice and other commodities.

The joint statement is Nigeria’s first sign of appeasement towards its neighbours, three months after Africa’s largest economy shut close its land borders with the two border countries to ban the import and export of rice, oil and other commodities.

The decision drew the ire of its neighbours, particularly Benin, which shares an economically vital land border with Nigeria, and where many citizens thrive from exporting to Africa’s largest market of 190 million people.

The border has become a port of entry for tons of rice into Nigeria, which it has banned to boost local production.

Nigeria has also accused Benin of benefiting from the illegal importation of subsidized oil, costing the government billions of dollars.