Nigeria shares international boundaries with the Republic of Benin to the west, Cameroon and Chad to the east and Niger, to the north.
Apart from these official borders, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) says more than 1,400 illegal border routes exist in the country as smugglers routes, creating security challenges.
The former comptroller-general of the service, Mr David Parradang, says that although the country has only 84 approved land border control posts, there are also more than 1,400 illegal borders in the country.
But Nigerian authorities note that the porous borders have resulted in crisis in economic sector that has been affecting the development of the country.
So, in August, Nigerian authorities announced and enforced the closure of its border with the Republic of Benin.
The operation under the codename “Ex-Swift Response” was a collaborative security operation involving the Nigeria Immigration Service and Nigeria Customs Service together with Nigeria Police Force and the Armed Forces.
President Muhammadu Buhari attributes the partial closure of Nigeria’s border with Benin Republic to the massive smuggling activities, especially of rice, taking place on that corridor.
He expresses great concern over the smuggling of rice, noting that it threatens the self-sufficiency already attained due to his administration’s agricultural policies.
Similarly, the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service, retired Col. Hameed Ali, says that the closure of Nigeria’s borders was undertaken to strengthen the nation’s security and protect its economic interests.
Ali also observes that closure would stem the influx of smuggled goods, especially rice and tomatoes into the country, insisting that the closure has significantly increased revenue from import duties.
However, while the government claims to have acted in the best interests of the economy and Nigerians, some Nigerians and citizens of neighbouring countries most affected by the closure, continue to express worry about it, calling for an immediate reopening of the borders.
Some economists believe that the decision to close the nation’s land borders could be painful to the concerned neighbouring countries, considering the relationship with them.
According to them, one of the immediate gains of the closure could be a stop to the dumping of goods from European markets in Nigeria.
They are of the opinion that the action would go a long way in protecting our local manufacturers and producers.
They describe it as policy that would address and redefine relations with our neighbours in a win-win situation.
But critics insist that border closure is an economic aberration as most countries don’t usually close their borders for trade-related reasons.
According to them, the closure has the potential to disrupt the economic lifelines of many traders who depend on legitimate cross-border trade.
Irrespective of this, Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, says that the decision to close border is part of the measures to preserve foreign policy in the national interest.
“Last time, I was critical of Nigeria’s refusal to sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) and recently I have been in support of the decision to close the border.
“Nigeria is 70 per cent of the population of West Africa and if we have an industrial policy that is aimed at protecting the productive sector of Nigeria, it is a fair competition.
“We cannot allow our neighbours to open their doors to this unfair competition and through the back door undermine our industry.
“It is not about smuggling petroleum or rice; but in 2017, the Republic of Benin was the world’s second largest importer of tramadol, an opioid pain medication that is being abused, to U.S.
“So closing the borders, I hope is not a permanent solution but what I hope is that is an opportunity to sit down and agree on rules and then open up the borders.
“It is extremely important to have a Foreign Policy that is ready to take very firm decision to protect the national interest against dangerous trade activities,” Sanusi observes.
Sharing similar sentiments, Ghana’s former President, John Mahama has lauded the creation of a joint-security taskforce on the borders of Nigeria but warns that the continued delay is harming the economies of the West African region.
Mahama believes that the greatest volume of trade in West Africa takes place in the Lagos – Abidjan corridor.
“I believe that an ECOWAS meeting of the Heads of States should discuss the issues and it could lead to the resolution of the problem.
“So, closing your border is the simplest thing to do; any country can say I’m closing my border to imports from my neighbours, but it doesn’t help to build the kind of integration we are trying to build in West Africa,” he said.
He also expresses the fear that by the time the borders are re-opened, some businesses that rely on each other’s export may have collapsed.
Economists note that one of the immediate consequences of Nigeria’s action is the backlash it will have on Nigerian traders in Ghana.
They allege that more than 400 shops owned by Nigerians have been closed for flimsy excuses that were, hitherto, overlooked.
Nigeria Union in Diaspora also alleges that Nigerian traders in Accra are being harassed and victimised.
In spite of this, authorities in Nigeria, having observed the encouraging changes in the economy, recently foreclosed re-opening of the nation’s borders.
For instance, the Federal Government says 95 per cent of arms and ammunition inflow to Boko Haram insurgent group, kidnappers, killer herdsmen and bandits has gone down considerably.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, says border closure against importation of foreign goods and illegal immigrants will remain, observing that 296 illegal immigrants have been arrested.
According to him, the decision to close the borders is taken to secure the country which has been confronted by numerous trans-borders economic and security challenges.
“These challenges range from banditry, kidnapping, smuggling, illegal migrants and proliferation of light weapons, among others.
“The preference for foreign goods, especially food items such as rice, has continuously impoverished our farmers and adversely affected domestic government policies supporting the agricultural sector to enhance food security.
“It is, however, disturbing that some neighbouring countries circumvent the ECOWAS protocol on transit.
“ECOWAS protocol on transit demands that when a transit container berths at a seaport, the receiving country is mandated to escort same without tampering with the seal to the border of the destination country.
“Experience has shown that our neighbours do not comply with this protocol. Rather, they break the seals of containers at their ports and trans-load goods destined for Nigeria,” he said.
The minister, who expresses satisfaction with success so far recorded by the joint task force, observed that the singular decision has reduced importation of foreign goods, increased revenue generation and enhanced security.
“On the economy, the partial closure of the borders has curbed the smuggling of foreign rice into the country, in addition to other prohibited items.
“Our series of interactions and engagements with Rice Miller Association of Nigeria since the commencement of this exercise has shown that the border closure has enhanced more production and milling of Nigerian rice.
“Patronage of local rice has increased and farmers are expanding their farms as well as engaging more hands.
“Border closure has also impacted positively on revenue generation which in turn will be used to build more infrastructures and develop critical sectors of the nation’s economy.
“The border closure has also curbed diversion of petroleum products from Nigeria to neighbouring countries,” he said.
Mohammed says further that 95 per cent of illicit drugs and weapons that are being used for acts of terrorism and kidnapping in Nigeria is through porous borders.
“Our conclusion is that the arms and ammunition these terrorists and criminal elements are using no longer gain access into the country.
“The drugs which affect the health and wellbeing of Nigerians have equally been reduced,” the minister said.
He assures the public that government, through diplomatic channels, would continue to engage the nation’s neighbours to agree to comply with the ECOWAS Protocol on Transit.
According to the minister, goods that are on the prohibition list to Nigeria, such as rice, used clothing, poultry products and vegetable oil, should not be exported to the country.
He also notes that the closure has provided a unique platform for the various participating agencies to jointly operate together, thereby strengthening inter-agency collaboration and reducing animosity.
He insists that the purpose of border closure is to promote a secure, peaceful and prosperous Nigeria.
Mohammed, therefore, calls on all Nigerians to be patriotic by patronising local rice to help the country to attain self-sufficiency in local rice production and boost the economy.
Enehikhuere writes for News Agency of Nigeria
By: Julius Enehikhuere
CBN Warns FG Against Rising Debt, Recession …As MPC Increases Cash Ratio To 27.5%
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has cautioned the Federal Government on its borrowing.
Addressing journalists at the end of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) in Abuja last Friday, CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, cautioned that “public debt was rising faster than both domestic and external revenues.”
Members of the MPC advised the Federal Government “to tread consciously in interpreting the debt to GDP ratio.”
According to the CBN governor, “the MPC looked at the debt to revenue and felt that there is always a tendency for us to say that our debt level is not high particularly when you begin to compare it to GDP. But we have to begin to look at other ways through which we can raise revenues to be able to fund fiscal operations and that is what the MPC is saying.”
The committee, Emefiele noted, is concerned about “the rising burden of debt services and urged the fiscal authorities to strongly consider building buffers by not sharing all proceeds from the Federation Account at the monthly FAAC meetings to avert the macroeconomic downturn in the event of an oil price shock.”
Also at the meeting, Emefiele announced that the decision has been taken to increase Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) from 22.5% to 27.5%.
Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) is a specified minimum fraction of the total deposits of customers, which commercial banks have to hold as reserves either in cash or as deposits with the Central Bank.
The committee, he said “is confident that increasing the CRR at this time is fortuitous as it will help address monetary induced inflation whilst retaining the benefit from the bank’s loan to Deposit Ratio policy, which has been successful significantly, increasing credit to private sector as well as pursuing market interest rate downwards.”
The committee encouraged the management of the banks “to be more vigorous in its drive, improve access to credit through its pursuit of the LDR policy as doing this would help not only in creating job opportunities but also help in boosting output growth and in moderating prices.”
The CBN governor lamented that the “committee felt that there will be a lot of liquidity in the market and there was a need for the bank to do something to mop the excess liquidity to level that it considers optimal to be able to run the economy in a way that the level of excess liquidity does not become injurious to the economy.”
Elder Statesman Supports NDDC’s Forensic Audit …Wants Immediate Payment Of Genuine Contractors
An elder statesman and one of the founding fathers of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Jasper Jumbo, has called on the management of the commission to use the period of forensic auditing to pay genuine contractors who are being owed a backlog of money.
The elder statesman also called on the NDDC to ensure that forensic auditors engaged to audit the accounts of the commission are paid at the end of the exercise without delay.
Chief Jumbo, who is the head of the Jumbo major house in Grand Bonny, made the call while speaking to aviation correspondents last Friday, in Port Harcourt.
He noted that a lot of genuine contractors who did good jobs for the commission were suffering because they are not yet paid.
According to him, paying them would help reduce their suffering.
He said that the forensic auditing is one of the steps being taken to put the NDDC back on track, and as well restore accountability in the commission.
“I am one of the protagonists asking for the setting up of forensic audit because the place was stinking. NDDC is no longer the commission we set up.
“I wrote the blueprint for NDDC and the then OMPADEC. What we as founding fathers saw was no longer what we originated.
“So I went to the National Assembly, and I called on Mr President to set up an investigation into the activities of the commission, which he commendably did, and God will bless him because we do not have another major source that touches the lives of our people.
“A lot of money have come into the commission without much being seen. No legacy project is seen, but trillions of naira have gone down the drain.
“ By the time they finish the forensic auditing, there will be a lot of sanity because people will know that government can bite”, Jumbo said.
The elder statesman, however, expressed reservation on the payment of those that will be engaged in the forensic auditing, pointing out that it is not just to engage the forensic auditors, but that they should be paid at the end of the exercise.
He also urged the commission to look for a way to engage the youths, so as to engender peace in the region.
Investors Forum To Promote Mechanised Farming In Rivers
As part of effort to boost agricultural development in Rivers State, the President, Rivers Investors Forum, Ibifiri Bob-Manuel, has re-affirmed the investors’ commitment towards promoting mechanised farming through value chain manufacturing, with a view to tackling unemployment among the youths.
Bob- Manuel stated this in an interview with newsmen in Port Harcourt during the 2020 Rivers Entrepreneurs and Investors Trustee Forum.
He noted that most countries economy now depends on agriculture, saying that it is only achievable through mechanised agriculture, as subsistent farming with mundane implements was no longer attractive.
He advised Nigerians to drop the idea of subsistent farming and embrace mechanized farming, for easy farming and bumper harvest
According to him, “we are trying to bring farmers into clusters, the people that are already in clusters, we are going to be working with them to ensure that we link them up with the manufacturers to be able to improve upon what they are doing because if we keep doing the same type of subsistent farming, they have always been known for, they will end up suffering and being poor”.
He said further that “the narrative today should be mechanized agriculture and we are working towards that in 2020. We are going to bring investors from around the world into Rivers State to showcase the potentials on agriculture”.
Bob-Manuel disclosed that the investors forum was working with the Rivers State Government to ensure that investors in the state enjoy adequate security and incentives on their investments.
“We have a better security in the state today. Nine years ago we were hammering on issue concerning multiple taxation, as at then some of our members cannot even drive in their official cars without being hounded, but today it is not as bad as what it used to be. There is a lot of improvement. The investors forum set the ball in motion and today we are where we are,” he said.
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