Stakeholders divided over continued border closure

AS the economy faces more ​ ​​challenges from many fronts, stakeholders in the import, export and trans-border businesses have alleged that the closure of the land borders was based on sentiments and political rascality. 

They condemned the prolonged closure as a manifestation of narrow mindedness on the part of political leaders and policy makers, noting that the government has no strategy in place to correct the faults and challenges it identified as reasons for the closure since August 2019.

A maritime expert, Dr. Segun Musa, said the executive and the legislative arms of the government had no strategic plans to strengthen border policing and prepare Nigeria for post border closure benefits.

He said: “The Presidency needs to tell us what has been achieved for the periods of closure and what measures have been put in place better than what the government claimed went wrong and necessitated the closure.”

Musa, a former committee chairman of the Lagos-Abidjan Corridor compliance monitoring task force, said the closure resulted in unnecessary disruption to regional trade and movement, as a crass demonstration of ego and power show, devoid of critical objective. 

He stated: “Unless Abuja tells Nigerians and the world what it has put in place to ensure that the concerns it raised last year in August are no more there, the international community will see this government as clueless, using Nigeria’s economic advantage and strength to destroy the economy of   neighbouring countries for no reason. 

“We also need to put mechanisms in place to check the impact of the closure on Nigerian entrepreneurs sourcing raw materials, spare parts, machineries and trading goods through this corridor but presently lost their huge investments due to this unpopular policy of the government. To the best of my knowledge the argument of government over the closure is baseless. Unfortunately it has caused a deep injury in the economy of our West African neighbours and led to disaffection between them and some of us with investments in the region. Nigeria truly needs leaders with experience who can govern with vision and not sentiments.”

Immediate past Vice President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Emenike Nwokeoji, queried the poor response of Abuja to reported reprisal actions in Ghana and Togo, and also faulted the presidency for failing to avail Nigerians with regular reports of the situation, noting that the government treats Nigerian masses with disdain and disregard.  

His words: “We were told that the closure of the border was for a period and for specific reasons. Ordinarily the government should, at least, be giving us quarterly report on how far they have gone. It is not enough for Customs to continue to give us a monotonous narrative of what they have been able to seize, because their duty at the border before now entails regular seizures. So they have said nothing new.

They started by telling us that local rice farmers are now selling their products, and that Nigerian rice is everywhere now. Was there any time locally produced rice was dumped somewhere because they were unable to sell owing to the presence of foreign rice? The closure is a big issue that requires presidential or ministerial updates.”

But a prominent customs broker, Prince Olayiwola Shittu, believes that the action of government is in order, and accused neighbouring countries of attempt to undermine Nigeria. He explained that the delay in opening the border followed an attempt by Benin and others to thwart Nigeria’s effort to stem the tide of cheap imports through their territory.

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