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The Nigerian government has given conditions that ECOWAS Member States must adhere to before reopening its border and a tripartite meeting with countries sharing its land borders to be convened within the next two weeks.

Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Foreign Affair made this known on Tuesday in Abuja while briefing newsmen following an Inter-Ministerial meeting Preparatory to the Tripartite Anti-Smuggling Committee Meeting of Nigeria, Benin and Niger.

Onyeama said that the meeting was under the directives President Muhaamadu Buhari regarding the border closure, stating that it was the desire of Mr President that the issues should be addressed as quickly as possible.

Onyeama said that the Nigerian Government insists that member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), must as a matter of necessity, respect the Rules of Origin.

“Within the next two weeks, a tripartite committee is to be convened and hosted here in Nigeria comprising a delegation, a committee of Benin Republic, from Niger, and from Nigeria.

“Each country will come with the heads of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Finance, the Customs, Immigration and NIA, the security segment.

“The Nigeria committee has met to look at the situation and we have agreed on a set of conditions and these conditions are as follows.

“That it is an absolute requirement of the Government of Nigeria that any imports coming through our land borders, when those imports are transit in goods.

“That is to say, when they are coming outside the ECOWAS region and imported into an ECOWAS member state, that those goods should retain their original packaging.

“There should be no modification whatsoever to the packaging on those goods imported into an ECOWAS member state destined for Nigeria. So,the original packaging and they must be escorted from the port directly.

“To the entry point, designated entry point on Nigerian borders, so presented to Nigeria Customs, with the packaging intact and those goods escorted. This is an absolute precondition that will not be compromised.

“For goods predominantly produced in ECOWAS Member States, the rules of origin must be certified, so we have to avoid any possibilities of dumping.,

“So, if goods are produced in ECOWAS member states, those goods must be in majority produced in those countries or if they are coming from outside ECOWAS.

“The value addition made by an ECOWAS country must be over 30 percent for it to be accepted within the framework of the Economic Trade Liberalisation Scheme that ECOWAS countries have to promote trade amongst ourselves.”

Onyeama explained that the value addition of 30 per cent was to avoid situations where countries outside the ECOWAS region will merely export goods into ECOWAS member states, repackage as coming from ECOWAS member states with little value addition and exported to Nigeria.

He said that the Nigerian government  will absolutely insist on the respect of the ECOWAS Rules of Origin, ensuring that they actually do come from within an ECOWAS member state in large part.

The Minister said that the Nigerian  Government would also insisted on the dismantling of all the warehouses along the common borders within a certain distance from the Nigerian borders.

Onyeama also said on the transportation of goods within ECOWAS and across borders, the Federal Government will henceforth insist on proper recognised packaging of the goods.

On the free movement of persons, Onyeama added that the Federal Government will now absolutely insist that all persons coming into the country through land borders, must present themselves at recognised entry points.

Onyeama said that anyone transiting through the land borders must have and present recognised travel documents which is an officially recognised passport.

He commended the governments of Niger and Benin for the laws they have put in place in their countries to stop the re-exporting of rice into Nigeria.

Also speaking, Comptroller-General of Customs , said that January 2020 reopening of the land borders as reported in some media tentative, explain that the borders would be opened following agreements  from the tripartite meeting.

“The issue of 31st January is an operational programme. What we do in operations like this is that you set time for logistics and other tactical requirements.

“So, the issue of 31st January is not a terminal date. If all these things are put together and we reach an agreement, we could even relax all these things before 31st of January.

“So, it is not sacrosanct, but it is not a terminal date. We can also surpass January 31st and still hold on to what we are doing,” Ali said.

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