Mixed reactions continue to trail border closure

Stakeholders in the Organised Private Sector (OPS) have continued to express mix reactions to the continued partial border closure by the Federal government.The stakeholders made their views known at the Stakeholders’ Forum on  border closure organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry(LCCI) on Tuesday in Lagos.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that on Aug. 20, 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered the closure of Nigeria’s land borders with her neighbours to curtail smuggling and strengthen internal security.

Director-General, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr Segun Ajayi-Kadir, while speaking on the impact of the border closure, lauded the Nigeria Customs Service on the numerous steps taken to curb the menace of smuggling.

Ajayi-Kadir who was represented by Mr Ambrose Oruche, Director Corporate Affairs, MAN, reiterated that the border closure policy was not sustainable due to its attendant negative implications on the manufacturing sector.He explained that the border closure had led to an increase in time wasted at transporting indigenous manufactured products.

This, he stated, had impacted negatively on cost of production and global competitiveness of indigenous manufactured products.

“No doubts, the economy is reaping some benefits of the closure but like the two sides of a coin, the operations of other economic operations, especially manufacturers and exporters, are negatively impacted.

“There is a long lead time in goods delivery to customers at Niger, as the multi-modal system via the shipping lines are very slow and ineffective.“This leads to losses in sales as it takes an average of eight weeks for the carriers to ship to customers in Niger which was not the case when the goods were moved through the borders.

“Exporters in Kano that used to deliver products directly to Mali through the borders within a week can no longer do so,” he said.Another stakeholder, Mr Caleb Omoyiola, Advisor, Borderless Alliance, Border Information Center, Seme, said that a joint operation team coded ‘Ex-Swift’ response to tackle all security issues at the borders in four regions of the country have yielded some results.

NAN reports that ‘Ex-Swift,’ consisting of Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Immigration Service, Armed Forces of Nigeria and Nigeria Police Force, operates in the South/South, Southwest, North Central and Northwest regions of the nation.

On the border closure, Omoyiola listed increase in internally generated revenue, employment and consumption of local products and reduced rate of smuggling contraband items as positives.

He, however, noted breach of ECOWAS protocols on rules of integration and the free movement of persons, goods and transport within the region as negatives of the border closure policy.

“It also goes against the spirit of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) as it defies regional and international trade treaties and has caused inflation and diplomatic conflict amongst neighbouring countries,” he said.Mr Mustapha Bashir, Secretary, Poultry Association of Nigeria, Kano Chapter, also opined that the border closure, though very positive on the poultry market, was not a long term solution.Bashir urged institutions to transparently communicate and implement policies focused on achieving long term goals.

He stressed the need for governing bodies to focus on preservation of agricultural produce and increasing the capacity of farmers to meet supply and ensure competitiveness.“Relative to our current and future explosive population, they should channel their focus on ensuring this sector achieve its goals.

“The Central Bank of Nigeria should have desk officers whose core understanding is agriculture vis-a-vis post harvest and preservation of produces,” he said.On the flip side, another stakeholder, Mr Shakin Agbayewa, Deputy State Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), advocated an extension of the border closure policy.

This, he said, if sustained, and with appropriate measures in place, would result in a decrease in the cost of a 50kg bag of  rice to N10,000 by September.He urged for vast expanse of already cleared lands, and provision of good seedlings same as the ones used in China and other rice producing countries by the government to enjoy greater yields.

“Due to the increase in sales and production, and also the nutritional content of our rice, we are doing absolutely well.“If all factors are in place, Nigerians should expect a reduction in the price of bag of rice, as low as N10,000 by September, ” he said. (NAN)