Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government has admitted that border closure has contributed to the rising inflation.
The Nigeria Bureau of Statistics had announced that the headline inflation as at October stood at 11.61 per cent.
However, the minister maintained that the benefits of the closure of the border had surpassed the slight increase in the inflation rate, saying Nigeria would not continue to subsidise the rest of West Africa.
While assuring that the measure was temporary as government expected the neighbouring countries to respect the ECOWAS protocols on transit to enable the reopening of the borders, it said import duties has increased by 15 percent since the closure.
Answering questions while briefing State House Correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said talks were ongoing with neighbouring countries.
The nation’s annual inflation rate was said to have increased to 11.61 percent in October 2019 from 11.24 percent in the previous month, reaching the highest since May of 2018. It was also reported that prices rose mainly for food.
Ahmed briefed alongside ministers of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola.
On the discussion with neigbouring countries, she said: “I need to remind us that the border closure is temporary. We have really advanced in our discussions between ourselves and our neigbours. We expect that the outcomes of those discussions and agreements is that each party will respect the protocols that we all committed to and then the borders will be open again.
“What we are doing is important for our economy. We signed up to the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) agreement, we have to make sure that we put in place checks to make sure that our economy will not be overrun as a result of the coming into effect of the ACFTA. That is why we have this border closure to return to the discipline of respecting the protocols that we all committed to.”
Information minister added: “The border closure, frankly speaking, is what we needed to do and we had to do it. We cannot continue to subsidise the rest of West Africa. And the benefits for border closure for me, far surpasses the very little increase in inflation. We have been able to save about 30 percent from our fuel consumption which means that over time we have been subsidising the fuel consumption of other countries.
“Within the last three months, we have been able to increase by 15 percent duties collected from import. Within the same period and this is very important, we have been able to drastically reduced the volumes of arms and ammunition that have been coming into the country through smuggling, ditto with illicit drugs.
“All Nigeria is saying, please let’s respect the protocol on transit. ECOWAS set up a protocol on transit goods which is very simple, if a container meant for Nigeria is dropped in Cotonou, the authorities in Benin Republic should escort the container to Customs in Seme border, and that way proper duty will be levied and paid. But on the contrary, what has been happening over the years is that our neighbours, will translate the container, put about five containers on one truck and drive it to the border as if it is only one container that they are going to pay duties on. Worse still, less than even 50 percent of what is meant for Nigeria will come through the approved border. So, what we have done, and it has maximum effect, is ask our neighbours to respect the protocol on transit, if they do that the borders will be open.”