Steve Agbota,[email protected] 08033302331
After a year of closing Nigeria’s borders over alleged security breaches and abuse of international trade facilitation procedure, the economy of border communities appear to have taken a turn for the worst with legitimate businesses either grounded or relocated.
Today, Nigerian businesses that operate between Lagos and some West African states like Togo, Benin Republic, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroun among others have reported losing over N600 billion.
The Muhammadu Buhari administration had introduced a joint military operation codenamed “Ex-Swift Response” on August 20, 2019 across the nation’s borders to curb the rising incidence of smuggling of rice, firearms and other prohibited goods into the country from Benin Republic and other neighbouring countries. Since then, the hardship the exercise brought upon both exporters, importers, clearing agents and people living around the borders are enormous. Economists at several fora even indicated that the pains of the closure are more than the gains. However, all efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) persuade Nigerian government to revisit and review its decision over the closure of the border posts proved abortive.
This seems to anger the neighbouring states as they are now inflicting hardship on Nigerians doing businesses in these states. Sometimes ago, there was an escalating tit-for-tat trade war as the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) shut down almost 70 Nigerian-owned businesses because of Nigeria’s closure of its border to imports and exports.
At a recent sensitisation programme held at Nigerian Shippers’ Council in Lagos, a member of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) revealed that Republic of Benin arrested some truck owners and jailed them for 12 years for bringing in some pharmaceutical products from Nigeria into Benin.
Investigation by our reporter shows that in order to keep Nigerians out of business, Benin has increased transit fee from 6000 cefas to 2 million cefas. The increase was a result of the closure of the nation’s land borders.
Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has called on the Federal Government to review the border closure and put measures in place to guard against ill practices at the country’s land borders.
Its acting Director General, Paul Oruche, said with the border closure, and the wave of the COVID -19 pandemic, the pains of exporters have aggravated. He added that the closure has posed a major risk to economic growth.
Chairman of Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders Importers and Exporters Coalition (SNFFIEC), Patrick Osita, said there is need for Federal Government to reopen the land borders, adding that there are some measures that can be put in place to check smuggling. He said continued closure of the land borders will not help the nation especially now that the economy is struggling to survive due to COVID-19 pandemic, saying that the closure of the land borders have cost the nation’s economy over N600 billion.
Also, speaking with Daily Sun, Chairman of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANCLA), Seme border chapter, Bisiriyu Fanu, said that the government is no longer having direction on what to do any more.
According to him, the latest thing around the border is that everybody has taken their destiny in their hands since the land border is yet to be opened.
“We are waiting on government to open the border. Somebody heard in the news yesterday or day before yesterday that Buhari is not ready to open the border or he’s not in hurry to open the border. Somebody was telling me this afternoon and I said well, they are not God.
“The government is not helping situation because what is happening down south here is not happening in the north there. If what is happening in the south here is also happening in the north down there, majority of us would have been happy about it. We are leaving everything to God to judge,” he added.
He said now people around the border are involving in other businesses especially the export of petroleum product, which they know how they do. “Going to the border now, there are more police checkpoints than coming back. The economy is crumbling. Has the border closure improve any agricultural product? We still have over 160 trucks left around the border because government said they should go back. Majority went back, some went through water and some through the bush. That is why I said the government has not achieved anything,” he said.