The Arewa Economic Forum (AEF) has commended the Acting Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, for going round the northern border communities to check up on their plight in view of the consequences of political developments in Niger Republic.
The Forum had a few weeks ago addressed a world press conference to call on subregional leaders not to take military action against Niger and also drew the attention of the authorities to the suffering of the masses around the borders which was caused by sanctions the Nigerian government placed on the military junta on Niger.
The Customs boss had taken it upon himself to go round the communities to offer succour to the people.
The Chairman of the forum, Ibrahim Shehu Dandakata, gave the commendation when he led a delegation on a visit to the Customs’ boss in his office in Abuja on Tuesday.
They called on the management of the Service to support the growth of the Northern economy by helping to boost cross border trade.
The Forum also urged the Service to bring back the inland ports which had over the years facilitated the growth of cross border trade in the country.
Dandakata told their host that the Forum exists to galvanise support from all stakeholders and willing collaborators from the North and friends of the North for the purpose of developing the economy of the region.
He lamented that the North is the largest part of the country and despite its huge potential in agriculture, solid minerals, population and land mass, it is the poorest and most backward part of the country.
The Chairman observed that negative publicity about issues around insecurity is the reason investors are ignoring the North, adding that the Forum was already working on reversing all the unhelpful portrayal of the region in the media.
He therefore informed the Customs boss that the Forum will be supporting the government with useful pieces of advice and practical ideas on how to make the North a better place to live in.
He also thanked the Federal Government for listening to the cry of the Forum not to embark on military action against Niger Republic, saying it would have brought doom on the daily lives of northerners.
He however added that more needs to be done to improve the lives of northerners in terms of cross border trade and the provision of inland ports which facilitates the trade.
Dandakata added that free movement of goods across the northern borders is at the heart of the region’s economy, urging the Customs’ boss to do something to bring the inland ports back.
“The survival of our people is tied to this trade and the free movement of goods. We need the inland ports back as quickly as possible. We don’t know why they stopped working but we need them back to facilitate this transborder trade,” he said.
The Chairman used the occasion to invite the Customs’ boss to the upcoming Arewa Economic Summit which the Forum is organising and which will take place at the end of the year.
Responding, the Customs’ boss accepted the invitation in principle and promised to be there in person.
On the issue of inland ports, he said the Customs was already working on the matter in collaboration with the Nigeria Shippers’ Council.
He added that the government is committed to bringing back the inland ports and other facilities that will support trade and the free movement of goods.
Adeniyi emphasised the importance of supporting the efforts of stakeholders to ensure the northern part of the country returns to its pride of place in Nigeria in terms of trade, commerce, agriculture, solid minerals and so on.
The Customs boss noted that the northern part of the country has the potential in terms of land and people to do better, adding that if the North is made to live up to expectation, it will rub off on the entire country.
He vowed to support the vision of the Forum in focusing on trade as a way of helping to develop the North and ensuring lasting and enduring peace in the region.
He admitted that cross-border trade is at the heart of the northern economy and the Customs will do its best to support it even in the face of challenges caused by the military coup in Niger Republic, noting that “we intend to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
“We must get cross-border trade right because the North lives on it. There is a nexus between trade and development. If we get trade right, the jobs will be there for our teeming youths and there will be peace. When there is prosperity, there will be peace and there will be little or no insecurity,” he said.
Other members of the Arewa Economic Forum in attendance were Abdullahi Maiunguwa, a former Director of Allocation at the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Safiya Muhammad Adamu an academic and former Chairperson of Leadership Editorial Board and Abdullahi Bomai, a former Director at the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) among others.
The AEF is a group of Northern academic, business people, security experts and retired top public functionaries advocating economic renewal for national growth and development.