Border Closure: Nigeria annoys its neighbours, ignores anguish of citizens

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WHILE Nigeria is counting the economic gains from the partial closure of its land borders, it is important for the authorities to take urgent steps to review the closure and begin to repair the damage this policy has done on its image both at the sub-regional level and the African community.

By Goddy Ikeh

Despite some opposing views expressed on the planned increase on the Value Added Tax, VAT, from 5 percent to 7.5 percent, the 2020 budget has further confirmed that the federal government is going ahead with the imposition of the new tax and this is clearly at variance to the earlier pledge by President Muhammadu Buhari that he would not want to cause further hardships on Nigerians, when the proposal to review upwards the pump price of petrol was muted.

Already, millions of Nigerians living along the nation’s borders have been subjected to series of untold hardship by the recent partial closure of the land borders.  In addition, Nigerian genuine cross border businesses have virtually collapsed with trailers and trucks are seen parked along the border posts.

Apart from the trail of anguish of Nigerians over the border closure, the country’s neighbours of Niger, Chad, Benin and Cameroon have been angered by this action of the ‘Big Brother’, Nigeria.

The ECOWAS Parliament has also warned that the closure of Nigerian borders with its West African neighbours might hamper free trade and movement of persons within the sub-region.

Moustapha Lo
Moustapha Lo

Moustapha Lo, ECOWAS Parliament Speaker, said recently at the 2nd Extraordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Liberia that the action taken by Nigeria was against the spirit of the protocol on free movement of persons and goods within the region. It was also reported that the President of Benin, Patrice Talon, met with President Buhari during the just concluded meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York, United States over the border closure.

The continued closure of the border is evident that the Nigerian authorities have not heeded the appeals from her neighbours to review the policy for the sake of good neighbourliness and foreign relations gesture. Rather the officials are busy counting the weekly and monthly gains recoded because of the closure of the border.

According to the NNPC, the recent closure of the borders has significantly led to a reduction in the smuggling of petrol and diesel out of the country. The Corporation also stated that the closure of the borders around August resulted in significant drop in the evacuation of petrol from fuel depots, thus confirming earlier claims that Nigerian fuel was being smuggled to neighbouring West African countries, including Ghana and Burkina Faso.

Aside from petroleum products, the demand for local rice has risen sharply in Sokoto State and other states, following the partial closure of borders.

The News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, said that a check in Illela, Gwadabawa, Kware and Sokoto metropolis showed that traders of local rice were making brisk sales.

The report added that the increase in the price of foreign rice has made consumers to revert to local rice. However, the price of foreign rice has risen to between N25, 000 and N28, 000 a bag. “The increase has led to consumers demanding locally produced rice which is sold for between N550 to N600 a measure. Farmers are now releasing the local rice into the market,” the report quoted a farmer as saying.

The report also said a Customs officer, who pleaded anonymity, explained that “the exercise is yielding results as some seizures have been made”.  He said that the items seized included drums of petroleum products, bags of parboiled foreign rice, bags of fertiliser, vehicles, groundnut oil, tin tomatoes and other items, while some illegal aliens were apprehended.

In addition, Mr. Hameed Ali, the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, said that 90 percent of cars smuggled into the country are displayed for sale across the country.

Hameed Ali
Hameed Ali

Ali was quoted as saying at a recent meeting with the Senate and House of Representatives Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning, that due to the border closure initiative, there was a day in September that N9.2 billion was collected by the Customs.  According to him, the country rakes in between N4.7 billion and N5.8 billion daily revenue from imports.

He disclosed that Nigeria has embarked on raids on various car marts to ensure a complete crackdown on smuggling and save the nation of revenue loss.

It was also gathered that the Nigerian Senate on Sept. 25, passed a resolution commending the border closure to solve the persistent smuggling into the country. And President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that the closure was already yielding positive results for the nation’s economy.

Receiving a delegation from the Nigerian Association for Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, NACCIMA, which called on him on September 20, at the State House Abuja, Buhari explained that the closure was caused by non-adherence to the business ideals that are inimical to the development of the Nigerian economy.

”After many years of diplomacy and aggressive regulatory oversight which yielded few results, we decided to close our land borders for a limited time to assess the impact of this measure,’’ Buhari said.

Although, the arguments of the Nigerian authorities sound good, but the same results or even more could still have been achieved if the country engaged its security agencies and the customs service to effectively check the porous borders of the country without embarking on this embarrassing policy of shutting out its neighbours by closing the land borders.

In tackling the ongoing Boko Haram, the Nigerian government had to approach the same neighbours for their collaboration in decimating the insurgents. Presently, the war on the insurgents is not over yet and Nigeria has not considered the cost and implications of this border closure to its relations with her aggrieved neighbours.

But this is not the first time Nigeria has closed its borders for such lame excuses of checking smuggling of goods and arms into the country. One wonders if any decisive measures have been taken to check this economic and security threat and employ more advanced technologies in policing the borders. May be, the Nigerian authorities are waiting for strong reactions from her aggrieved neighbours in order to review this policy.

Perhaps, the Nigerian government has simply failed to acknowledge the impact of this border closure on the economies its neighbours and how damaging this could be for diplomacy, and Nigeria’s standing on the sub-region, the African continent and the world stage, especially now that the take-off of the African free trade is only some months away.  It is important for Nigeria to take urgent steps to review the border closure and begin to repair the damage this policy has done on its image both at the sub-regional level and the African community.

 

– Oct. 13, 2019 @ 18:40 GMT |

 

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