Re-open all land borders | Dailytrust

Re-open all land borders

President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

When the federal government in March 2020, decided to shut the country’s land borders, it was done to stem the inflow of arms which was a major contributor to the insecurity in the country and to encourage local production which will in the long run boost revenue earnings.

Indeed the measure helped to compel importers to patronise Nigerian ports for their incoming goods in the process, thereby increasing revenue for the country. We also believe that it brought some semblance of order in the compliance of the import-export regime by importers and exporters alike. Furthermore, the measure led to local enterprises, especially in the agricultural sector taking advantage to fill in the void created by foreign agricultural imports and products. In other sectors of the economy, local entrepreneurs strived to pick up the slack as a result of the absence of foreign goods and services. However, they could not meet up as the country was not adequately prepared for the closure. The cost of items within the country skyrocketed as demand outweighed production. As a result, many Nigerians were deprived of items they were hitherto used to. Traders who were dependent on cross-border trade lost their means of livelihood.  In fact, the sluggish business environment occasioned by the continued closure of the borders drove many small and medium businessmen who relied on the huge trade between Nigeria and neighbouring countries, to the point of desperation. Ironically, this in itself is another potential source of insecurity which the closure intended to tackle in the first place.

The country’s relationship with some of its neighbours nose-dived as they felt that Nigeria shouldn’t have shut its borders, especially when viewed against the ECOWAS protocols. Also, not a lot of positive results were recorded in the area of security as, despite the closure, attacks on villages and cities continued. In light of that, it is clear that the losses outweighed the gains recorded.

That was why many Nigerians and foreigners alike, especially those bordering the country were excited when in December last year, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the reopening of four of the borders. The Seme in the South West part of the country, Ilela and Maigatari in the North West and Mfun in the South South.

In his statement, Buhari noted that the reopening would be done in phases, so people waited with bated breath for the reopening of the others, but till date, that has not been done.  We call on the government to reopen the remaining borders. The fact has already been established that Nigeria did not record as much benefit as envisaged from the closure, therefore, there is really no need for the exercise to continue. It also needs emphasising that not only has Nigeria’s economy suffered from the closure of land borders, its standing within the West African sub-region has been negatively affected.

As one of the prime movers that led to the setting up of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the largest economy in the region, Nigeria is expected to lead and encourage open market and free flow of trade, not to impede it. Apart from the economic benefits it stands to gain in helping to integrate the economies of the region, Nigeria’s political standing as the bellwether African country will receive a significant boost.

In any case, closing the border is not a sustainable solution, what the government should pursue is a permanent solution to the problems at the border and one of such is to look at the porosity of the borders. Something urgent should be done about that. They must be well policed. Immigration and customs personnel that are supposed to check the influx of persons and goods should also be made to carry out their duties effectively.  Nigerians’ appetite for foreign goods/items should also be quenched through the production of quality goods in the country. There should be checks to make local manufacturers up the ante to produce items that will appeal to the masses. The problems at the borders are deeply entrenched and to address them, there must be a change in policy and change of attitude on the part of citizens. Nigeria cannot afford the continuous closure of its land borders.

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