The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Thursday, said despite the high-spirited mood typical of election seasons, his regime would ensure that Nigerians vote in an atmosphere conducive for free and fair elections come February 25 and March 11, 2023.
“I have made it a cardinal commitment to ensure each Nigerian is able to exercise their franchise by participating in a free and fair election… it is our objective to ensure this takes place in a peaceful and conducive atmosphere,” Buhari said when he received the Secretary-General, World Customs Organisation, Dr Kunio Mikuriya, at the State House, Abuja.
According to a statement signed by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, Mikuriya is in Nigeria for a Global Conference on Fragile Borders themed ‘Enabling Customs in Fragile and and Conflict Affected Situations.’
The statement is titled ‘How fragile borders fuel terrorism, economic sabotage, and illicit flow of arms, by President Buhari.’
Commending Mikuriya for his fourth visit to Nigeria, Buhari said his latest appearance comes when the electorate goes to the polls.
He said, “I have made it a cardinal commitment to ensure each Nigerian is able to exercise their franchise by participating in a free and fair election, in true practice of our relatively nascent democracy.
“It is our objective to ensure this takes place in a peaceful and conducive atmosphere, despite all the usual excitement and gamesmanship that is known to occur during election campaigning.”
Buhari also lamented that the porous borders of many African states and the attendant proliferation of illicit arms were fueling economic sabotage and prolonging the fight against terrorism.
He argued that Nigeria and her neighbours must place a higher premium on the effective policing of borders, as the fragile nature of entry points into various countries enhances terrorism.
“In fact, it is quite frankly the singular most concerning sub-issue in our national security agenda. The fragility of our borders has been a major Achilles heel in our fight against terrorism, economic sabotage and illicit flow of small and light weapons,” Buhari remarked.
Therefore, the President lauded the timeliness of the Global Conference on Fragile Borders, expressing his delight that the WCO dedicated an entire conference to the subject and theme.
This move, he said, recognises not only the importance of border security but dedicates working sessions and brainstorming opportunities around it.
This is “of critical importance for us as a country as we go to the polls, but equally important to most countries on the continent, and dare I say the world,” said Buhari.
He also briefed the WCO Secretary-General and his team of the several efforts of his regime in combating the challenges of fragile borders.
They include the National Security strategy 2019, which promotes close inter-agency cooperation and the National Counter-Terrorism strategy, which supports the armed forces in launching operations to secure the borders, demonstration of a strong political will to support Nigeria Customs Service as a critical agency of the state in the discharge of its security and revenue mandates, amongst others.
Buhari also cited the approval of the Federal Executive Council for a new Customs Modernisation Project that actively promotes technology integration into border operations, saying the ongoing effort to review the Customs enabling law would strengthen the service and provide stiffer sanctions against smuggling and other criminal acts.
Dr Mikuriya, who thanked Nigeria for hosting the three-day conference, described the WCO as a 184-member worldwide organisation in which Nigeria plays an active and vibrant role.
He said Customs services must now go beyond mere revenue generation and delve into security, as “without security at the borders, we cannot effectively collect revenue.”
Mikuriya lamented that Customs officials were often targets of terrorists and armed groups, “and so we need to have collaboration with other security agencies, share intelligence, and deploy technology.”