Nearly 17 months after the closure of borders with neighbouring Niger, Cameroon, Chad, Benin and Niger, Nigeria has lifted the closure with immediate effects, a decision that has attracted accolades from business community.
The land borders approved for immediate re-opening by President Muhammadu Buhari are Seme in Benin Republic; Ilela in Niger; Maigatari in Chad; Mfun in Cameroon.
“These four land borders will be opened immediately, while the remaining land borders are directed to be reopened on or before Dec. 31,“ Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, reported.
She said that President Buhari approved the border re-opening at week’s virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on Wednesday, December 16, 2020 in Abuja.
Ahmed said that President Buhari also directed that while the borders were being reopened, the ban on the importation of rice, poultry and other products still subsisted and would be implemented by border patrol teams.
Nigeria had shut the borders in August 2019 to stop inflow of food, and light weapons as well as check illegal exportation of petroleum products.
The decision has attracted Nigerian Association of Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) which on Thursday, December 17, 2020 described the move as “an important strategic move that will help the nation to exit recession by the first quarter of 2021’’.
Mrs Saratu Iya-Aliyu, President of NACCIMA, said the decision would surely improve the nation’s image and commitment to remaining a major economic player in the sub-region.
Iya-Aliyu said that the move was also a welcome strategic move in the context of Nigeria’s ratification of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as it sent a clear signal of the nation’s readiness to effectively trade under the agreement.
“It is a positive decision because trade across our land borders is an important component of our cross border trade which can help boost operations of our SMEs engaged in export of non-oil products through the land borders.’’
She said that since the reopening came with the ban on importation of rice, poultry and other banned products, security agencies should ensure effective border patrol.
The President, Nigerian Institute of Shipping (NIS), Capt. Tony Onoharigho, also said that the reopening of the nation’s land borders would lead to increased market turnover, with more goods coming into the country.
Onoharigho, said that the opening of the borders was the right step to take, having been closed longer than expected.
“Though we know it was due to the procurement of arms and preventing banned goods from entering the country that the border was closed, it stayed longer than was expected.
“The opening of the border will be of benefit to the people of the south-west and south-south because the goods that will be coming in now will increase the market turnover and money in circulation,’’ he said.
Dr Segun Musa, Deputy National President, Air Logistics, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), also said closure of the border had adversely affected people who would now be picking up and strengthening their businesses.
Musa said that the border opening would also ensure that business communities in Nigeria participate and benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
The National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) has urged the Federal Government to produce full documentation of causes, cost and analysis of impacts of the border closure.
Dr Ken Ukaoha, NANTS President, made this known on Thursday in Abuja and said the documentation should include causes, effects, costs and benefits, including analysis of actions taken and lessons learnt from the border closure.
“NANTS joins the travel public and entire business community in West Africa in commending the government for listening to the voice of actors and a good judgement that would place the nation and ECOWAS region at the fringes of benefits to trade actors and economies,” he said.
“Cross border business actors including traders, transporters, manufacturers, farmers as well as the travel public must avoid compromising the border officials and luring them to corrupt practices that deface the possible benefits of the border closure.
“In particular, every actor must ensure proper documentation and honest manifest and declaration of goods to avoid unnecessary delays and unjustifiable requests from border officials,’’ he said.
He said that Nigerian consumer should show great sense of responsibility and patriotism by changing their attitude, their taste and their quest for foreign goods and commodities in place of domestic products.
Prof. Mustapha Muktar of Economics Department, Bayero University, Kano says the reopening of borders was timely while maintaining the ban on rice importation.
The don said he was excited that the border reopening was announced with some regulations and restrictions of import of some items.
The Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) which also welcomed the decision reported that it would revive and boost business and economic activities while generating revenue to government coffers.
NECA’S Director-General, Dr Timothy Olawale, said on Thursday that the re-opening of the borders was long expected, saying its closure brought untold hardship to many Nigerians, including a large number of informal-sector players, and individuals doing legitimate businesses across the borders.
According to him, this has resulted in unemployment and poverty.
“We commend the opening of four land borders by the government which had been closed to check the menace of smuggling goods and arms and ammunition into the country and protect local businesses, among other reasons.