On dividends of border closure
It is no longer in doubt that Nigeria has for decades now become a ‘father Christmas’ kind of some sorts to most of its neighbouring countries like Niger, Benin , Chad and Cameroun, among others. This is largely due to its magnanimity as the giant of Africa and the porous nature of our land and maritime borders.
Taking a cursory look at the situation which allows ‘importers’ to move goods into Nigeria and exporters take goods out of the country through legitimate and illegitimate means, through the maritime and land borders, one wonders at what cost Nigeria had suffered all along.
The greatest beneficiary of the illegal imports is Benin Republic where businesses thrive by cutting corners against Nigeria’s interests in terms of evading paying customs and excise duties by importers.
Facing the reality of the times with increasing financial burdens against dwindling revenue generation for Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered a partial closure of all entrance points into Nigeria by sea and land pending when issues related to illegal smuggling of goods, particularly rice, other food items, vehicles and other sundry items, across our borders into our country and smuggling of petroleum products out of the country will be sorted out.
It has been said that the border closures have been difficult decisions for the Nigerian Government to take, given that Nigeria is an economic giant in the West African Region. To keep providing the buffer, Nigeria must make sure her economy is not hurt by smuggling.
Unfortunately, the regional economic bloc, ECOWAS, of which Nigeria was a founding member, has been too critical of government’s action. However, while our neighbours, particularly Benin Republic, have been agonised by the closure, Nigeria’s fortune in terms of revenue generation seem to be swelling up with billions of Naira into its kitty.
The closure of the border has forced importers to ship their cargos into Nigeria through Apapa and Tin Can Island instead of Benin.
The accruing benefits of the closure of our borders do not begin and end with smuggled goods into Nigeria alone. Even the illegal taking out of petroleum products from Nigeria to other neighbouring countries where it sells more has been nipped in the bud.
In the same vein, the value of the Nigerian home grown rice, which is largely supported by the Buhari administration under its CBN funded Anchor Borrowers programme, has significantly increased since the closure. Though, most of the beneficiaries of the increase are not farmers but unscrupulous middle men and rice processors, the feeling is that farmers stand a good chance to substantially benefit from the closure from the current farming season with good market prices for their rice.
Let the status quo remain and the borders be put on permanent lock and key until and unless correct measures are taken to make importers do legitimate businesses and Nigeria earn more revenue.