By Suleiman Adamu
Two months into closure of Nigeria’s land border to purportedly curb smuggling activities, especially of rice, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is betting on same measure to rekindle the agriculture sector.
The government directive, according to a statement by the presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, will save the country billions of naira on import bills.
The statement said the President, while receiving a delegation of Katsina State Elders Forum at his country home in Daura, said the country’s domestic fuel consumption had dropped by more than 30 per cent, following closure of land borders.
President Buhari said he had not given any date for the reopening of the land border until the situation improves.
The President commended the actions taken by the President of Niger Republic, Muhammadou Youssoufou, including the dismissal of officials and a ban on use of the country as a dumping ground for Nigeria-bound smuggled goods.
President Buhari noted that the measures taken by the President of Niger were helpful and supportive.
President Buhari acknowledged the hardship of border communities following the ban on sale of fuel at stations 20 kilometres to the border, a restriction that also saw to the closure of all fuel stations in his native home, Daura.
”Farmers must be protected. Dishonesty is deep rooted in the country. Otherwise the border closer would not have been warranted,” he said.
According to him, the restriction was a temporary measure as the Nigerian Customs Service needed to ascertain outlets involved in real sale of products and those being used for smuggling.
President Buhari told the delegation that he intends forging ahead with poverty alleviation schemes and the agricultural and livestock reforms started by the administration in the first term, since the election was behind him and a government now in place.
He explained that the reforms, especially those relating to the settlement of livestock herders would take time to accomplish, assuring that his deliberate choice of tested farmers as his past and current ministers of agriculture was informed by the need to carry his vision through.
Earlier in his remark, the representative of the Chairman of the Elders Forum, Alhaji Aliyu Saulawa, commended the achievements of President Buhari and Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State in curbing the menace of bandits, kidnappers and cattle rustlers.
He, however, drew a long list of requests which included a special intervention fund to assist victims of attacks, completion of the 10 megawatts wind power project in the state, setting up of a North-West Development Commission and setting up of Ruga farm settlements.
He said the farm settlements were urgently needed.
The Elders Forum also made a case for numerous infrastructure projects for the state, as well as for keener federal government’s scrutiny of benefits of social investment schemes.
President Buhari promised to look at the requests.
The President added that his constituency is the whole country, and he is determined to be fair to all, including those that voted him into office and those that did not.