WCO Secretary General visits fragile borders between Niger and Burkina Faso

21 October 2019

The WCO Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, visited Torodi Customs office in the Niger-Burkina Faso borderlands during a two-day visit to Niger on 16 and 17 October 2019.  This border zone is currently heavily impacted by the frequent activities of various armed groups and insurgents in neighbouring countries.  Despite a challenging security situation, Nigerien Customs officers remain active at the border and Customs clearance is being conducted without any disruption in service.  Given Niger’s position as a landlocked country, its border with Burkina Faso is vital for the economic stability and development of the country as a whole, serving as a gateway for goods from other West African countries with access to sea ports.

The visit by Secretary General Mikuriya, accompanied by Niger’s Director General of Customs, Mr. Abdallah Harouna, sent a strong signal of support and recognition of the difficult task falling to Customs administrations in the West and Central Africa region.  Upon arrival, Dr. Mikuriya was met by the head of the Customs region, Mr. Abdoulaye Alidou Maiga, and the head of Torodi Customs office, Mr. Amayor Hamid.  They held discussions on a number of topics, and particularly on the impact of insecurity and jihadist activities on Customs and trade in the Sahel region.

During the tour of the facilities, the head of the Customs region pointed out that the basic security installations, such as walls around the border post, had been built out of the need to protect the border post in the event of an attack.  However, these measures also offered reassurance to traders and attracted more goods as a result.  Mr. Abdoulaye Alidou Maiga appealed for enhanced security measures to support the border economy, such as personal security equipment to protect officers risking their lives on a daily basis while fulfilling their duties.  Secretary General Mikuriya surveyed the IT equipment to facilitate Customs clearance at the border post, including a special office with computers enabling Customs brokers to lodge their declarations, and a VSAT satellite connection that ensures connectivity and flows of information in a standard electronic format.

Dr. Mikuriya stressed the fact that Customs offices, together with their IT equipment, form part of the State’s critical infrastructure as their mission is to facilitate cross-border trade.  He added that "continuous operational activity by Customs at fragile borders is of paramount importance, as it sends a strong political message to armed groups and to the local population about the presence and service of the State in these areas.  We have witnessed cases where Customs were forced to abandon the border because of jihadists in neighbouring countries.  The persistence and bravery of Niger Customs are therefore highly commendable.”

The Director General of Niger Customs thanked the Secretary General for the WCO’s ongoing support and advocacy in this field.  He raised the critical need to continue supporting Customs administrations at fragile borders through specialized security training, and through awareness-raising among political leaders and donors on the impact of the security situation on the work of Customs and on the important dual role of Customs administrations in ensuring both security and development in conflict and post-conflict zones.