Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament, yesterday, became rowdy over the closure of the nation’s borders.
The rowdy session followed the presentation of the country’s report by the Nigerian Delegation to the ECOWAS Parliament led Ahmed Idris Wase at the ongoing Second Ordinary Session of the parliament in Abuja.
Deputy Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives stated that prior to the current operation at the nation’s borders, the Federal Government had in 2016 banned importation of rice.
Wase added that in spite of the checks put in place by the government, Nigerian markets continued to witness imported rice which redered locally produced rice unattractive to buyers.
“Most of the smuggled goods are not part of the legal items captured under the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS), but rather, imported from third countries such as rice produced in Thailand and Vietnam, imported to Benin and finds its way into Nigeria through smuggling,” Wase said.
He added that such goods were accompanied by other illicit items like hard drugs, which had led to the numerous challenges in the country.
Following the presentation, lawmakers from other countries descended on the report, expressing displeasure over the development.
They argued that the border closure was against the spirit of the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons and Goods.
The Ghanaian delegation led by Kwasi Ameyaw Cheremeh, stated that the closure of the borders had become a major issue affecting Ghana’s trade.
The lawmaker added that several trucks from Ghana have been stranded at the Seme side of the border for over two months, even as he said Ghanaian trucks returning from Nigeria with goods have not been able to cross the border.
He said as much as Nigeria claimed that the closure was not targeted at Ghana, but based on security concerns with neighbouring Benin Republic, Ghana had indicated to Nigeria that the closure had impacted negatively on its export and imports to and from Nigeria.
On his part, the Leader of the Gambian delegation, Kebba Barrow, said Gambia had continued to follow the ECOWAS Protocol and the right to reside and establish, urging Nigeria to copy its example.
Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Moustapha Cisse Lo, reiterated his condemnation of the closure of the Nigerian borders.
“I reiterate my call for the opening of the borders between our states and the observance of the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons and Goods in the ECOWAS region, which aims to facilitate trade liberalisation and the removal of trade barriers between our states and our peoples,” Lo said.