The controversy surrounding the closure of Nigeria’s borders with four neighbouring nations, Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon republics remains unresolved and ongoing.
The land borders were shut on August 20th after Nigeria’s persistent complaints against what it regarded as sharp practices by the four countries.
Nigeria, which is the most populous and biggest economy of Africa, and which prides itself as being a giant of Africa, claimed it had appealed to the countries to look into its complaints, with a warning of dire consequences over inaction.
Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, while giving the order for the closure of the borders on August 19th, said Nigeria eventually took the painful decision to close its borders, because of the insensitivity of its neighbours to the plight of Nigeria, an oil producing country which had been going through difficult economic times.
The government’s senior special assistant on media, Garba Shehu, in a statement, accused the four nations of sabotaging the economy of Nigeria, through the violation of the protocol of free trade and movement of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
He said the nation’s neighbours were flooding Nigeria with smuggled goods, an action that is inimical to ECOWAS protocol, and the smuggling was affecting industrial growth, food security and undermining national security.
7Dnews reports that Nigeria is particularly irked by the influx of smuggled imported rice, small arms, and industrial goods, as well as people smuggling.
The border closure has the support of stakeholders, manufacturers and international organisations, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), according to the government.
Nigeria’s Government calls for Compliance
As the consequences of the border closure bite harder on both sides, Godwin Emefiele, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria has warned that Nigeria’s neighbours must comply with ECOWAS protocols, before the borders are re-opened.
He gave the warning in Lagos, at the 2019 International Trade Seminar, that Nigeria has refused to become a dumping ground for goods that did not originate from Africa, he said at the seminar.
Emefiele said the compliance with fair trade practices would ensure that all countries benefited from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
AfCFTA presupposes a single African market with free movement of goods, services and persons among the member nations of African Union (AU).
Nigeria, the bank governor insists, should support the growth of the industrial sector, investment in non-oil sector, and focus on agriculture, to help insulate the economy from chilly external headwinds.
Nigeria’s manufacturers should access other markets within the continent hence the nation would not allow imported goods by other sister countries to be smuggled into Nigeria.
“If the AfCFTA agreement is going to be of value to our country, we will not tolerate harm to our local farmers and industries.’’
Nigeria, he said, would continue to implement policies that would promote domestic production and the growth of non-oil exports and spur diversification of the economy.
Also at the seminar, the minister of Industry, Trade and investment, Adeniyi Adebayo, said Nigeria’s aim is to grow the agriculture and industry sectors that have been in the doldrums since oil boom era.
The glut in oil markets plunged Nigeria into an economic recession which it survived in 2017. The West African country with 200 million people would not want to fall into recession again, he said.
``Nigeria did not need to look beyond the recent recession to understand the urgency for the government to grow and diversify its economy in order to develop new sources of export revenues.’’
He reported that Nigeria has designed an Economic Growth and Recovery Plan (EGRP), to prepare it to cope with challenges of the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement.
EGRP focuses on restoring growth through macro-economic stability, and economic diversification with emphasis on agriculture, energy, and small and medium scale industries. It also encourages global competitive economy through investment in infrastructure and improving the business environment.
In spite of the protest by Nigeria’s neighbouring countries, Adebayo warned that a lot must be done to prepare Nigeria to achieve the envisaged benefits of the AfCFTA.
The head of Nigeria’s Customs Service, Hamid Ali, has doused speculations that the borders would be opened at the end of January 2020.
The customs have disowned indications that border closures would finish at the end of January 2020, but have said they would be the end of the first phase of the operation.
The public relations officer of NCS, Joseph Attah, reported on Tuesday November 5th that the borders would not be opened until the objectives of the closure were achieved.
Attah said, “our interest is to make sure that our country is secure, the well-being of our people is assured and our economy is secure.
“The step we have taken is in the interest of Nigeria, the step is not to hurt anybody but to protect our own interests as a nation,” he said.
Nigeria’s Foreign affairs minister, Geoffery Onyeama, on Monday November 4th, released some more conditions that should need to be met before the re-opening of the borders.
At the end of the tripartite meeting of the federal government committee on border closure, he said the nation forbids imported products that are repackaged by neighbours, who must also respect ECOWAS ‘rules of origin’ on goods into another country.
The minister also said that imported goods for Nigerian markets should be escorted from ports of member-states, and that such goods must have 30% local input.
Internal affairs minister, Rauf Aregbesola, reported on Thursday November 7th, that people entering Nigeria under the ECOWAS protocol will need to present proper documents, including valid passport.
He said that the next measures introduced by the government could be tougher, to give Nigeria better security.