Contrary to earlier reports in the media, that the Nigerian Government has slated January 2020 for the reopening of its borders, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has said the land borders will remain partially closed.
Spokesman of the NCS, Mr. Joseph Attah, while reacting to reports in the media insinuating January 2020 terminal date, said no date has been set for reopening, the land borders which have been closed for over three months.
The media have been awash with reports of the said date, sighting a memo with reference number NCS/ENF/ABJ/221/S.45, and marked “Restricted” circulated by agency.
But according to a report by citybusinessnews.com, the image maker of the service stated that the memo was only referring to the terminal date of the Joint Security EX SWIFT Response, which was inaugurated to enforce the closures.
Attah insisted that the partial boarder closure would last till the achievement of its set objectives.
He said: “Please note that the internal memo is referring to the end of this phase of the joint security Ex Swift Response and NOT a terminal date for the partial border closure.
“Security operation of this kind is usually in phases.
“The partial border closure will continue until the set objectives are achieved,” he added.
Reaction from stakeholders
The Economic Community Of West African States has told the Nigerian Government that closing the border with other neighbouring countries wouldn’t be the solution to the prevalence of goods and products into Nigeria. In a recent release the commission said.
“The root causes of this recurrent situation must be studied with a view to finding a permanent solution.” It also shared the view that the closure would hamper Nigeria’s successful implementation of the AfCFTA agreement.
According to a report by atqnews.com, Nigeria’s government in August, just three months after celebrating its signing of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) placed a ban on the movement of all goods from countries sharing her common land border such as Benin, Cameroon, Niger and banning all trade import and export.
Officials have pointed to curbing smuggling of goods such as rice, tomatoes and poultry as primary objective of the border closure. This is with the aim of boosting Nigeria’s agricultural domestic production and trade.
Within the period of the closure, it has had a toll on trans-border trade especially Nigeria’s large market for the listed commodities including those with already paid custom duties. This led to a sharp increase in price of the commodities especially with the consuming populace complaining of non-existence of supplementary products from Nigeria.
Many are of the view that effective policies made workable such as massive industrialisation and Agriculture would have palliated the impact of the border closures.
Isaac Akugbe is a Beninoise transporter who shuttles between Lagos and Cotonou. He lamented the effect of the border closure on his business.
“The border closure has affected me more than I expected. Before the closure I shuttled rice to Lagos in almost two trips daily
“Since that time everything is paralysed. The worst problem now is that my car is registered with Cotonou and I cannot use it on Lagos roads “he lamented.
In a related reaction, Shola Adeyanju, a farmer of Togo and Nigeria parents said the closure has had it’s toll on his Agribusiness.
“I am a farmer with a farm at Badagry and an outlet in Lome. I haven’t been myself since the border closure because my production is affected. I farm efo and ewedu which i move to Lome. Usually people in Lome prefer our Nigerian ‘ewedu’ which I take to Lome and bring in coconuts for some manufacturers at Idi Iroko. Everything is on a stand still now”.
Amid persistent complaints from many affected Nigerians, the Nigeria Customs Service and some members of the public have endorsed the Federal Government’s decision to close the borders, describing it as the most successful and effective measure so far adopted, in terms of curtailing the influx of smuggled rice and other goods to the country.
However, most importers of perishable goods, valued at millions of naira, had their consignment of goods trapped in Cotonou, capital of Benin Republic, for several weeks because the Seme and Idiroko borders were closed without warning.
“Some of those goods are perishable and the Nigerian Government has collected duty on them. I don’t know why they won’t allow the goods to come in.
A clearing agent, Khally Momodu, based in Seme, according to a report by punchng.com, said: “There are some perishable goods that will go bad in 28 days when this operation ends. We brought in two trailers from Ghana on Thursday and they have not been allowed to come in,”.
As expected, the prices of food consumed by ordinary Nigerians have hit the roof.
Food items, such as frozen foods, were reported to have gone up by 65 per cent.
The price of foreign parboiled rice also went up by 29.4 per cent from N17, 000 to N22, 000.
The demand for local rice in the absence of foreign rice drove the price of local rice up from N15, 000 to N17, 000.
The situation has left many people questioning the wisdom in shutting the borders against rice imports, whereas Nigeria has not been able produce enough to meet local demand.