Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday in Benin, Edo State, implored Nigerians to bear with the federal government over the closure of Nigeria’s land borders with neighbouring countries.
Osinbajo, who spoke at an ongoing town hall meeting, which coincided with the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) in Edo State, said that the border closure was in the interest of the country and local producers, especially farmers.
He also explained that government closed the borders because “we want our neighboring countries to begin to take us very very serious.”
Osinbajo was responding to a question by the Vice President of Edo market women, Mrs. Christiana Omokaro, who lamented the high cost of rice and other foodstuffs in the market.
She also appealed to the VP to address the lingering epileptic state of power supply in the country.
Responding, the Vice President explained that part of the reason for the border closure was to make the neighbouring countries take policing of the borders more seriously.
He pointed out that other prosperous nations did not allow any country to bring goods into their countries but opted to grow what they eat.
Osinbajo noted that smuggling discourages local production and does not allow Nigeria farmers access to the market.
The vice president further explained: “Part of the reasons for shutting the border is the smuggling that has been going on. If we continue to allow the Chinese and others to continue to bring in all those things, we will kill farming completely and most of our people will not be employed.
“There may be some pain in order to gain. The countries of the world that are prosperous didn’t allow anybody to bring in anything to their countries. They made sure they grow what they eat. I can assure you that very soon, you will see a great deal of progress. You will see more of our own commodities coming into the market. If we allow our own people grow these things, our people will prosper. The only way our people can prosper is if we let them use the opportunity that they have such as farming, fishing and others.
“We are going to make sure that commodities are cheaper. We must bear in mind that the reason today some commodities are more expensive is because we stopped smuggling. We have to encourage our local farmers so that our local farmers can prosper.”
Osinbajo commended Edo state Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki for repositioning the state as a foremost destination for investment and tourism.
He said Edo was blazing the trail in the direction of diversifying the country’s economy and moving the nation in the direction of revenue beyond oil.
“Tourism is one sector which has untold potential for growth, Edo State is blazing the trail in this direction. By showcasing its rich heritage, Edo State will attract global attention for all of the right reasons.
“It is apt that the Edo State government is pursuing a cultural agenda that includes the recovery of the lost treasures of the Bénin Kingdom from all of the places they were taken to across the world. The invasion of the Bénin Kingdom would have ended a lesser civilization, instead the royal dynasty survived and the legacy of Benin endured not only through the lineage of the noble royal houses but also in the evident resilience of the people”, the vice president stated.
Obaseki in his remark said his administration was committed to leveraging on the state’s cultural capital to drive investment to the tourism sector.
He said tourism was the key pillar of his administration agenda and the next level was to translate these cultural assets into a force that attracts international tourist traffic.
According to him, “For us, entering the next level means manifesting the greatness of Edo state through tourism, as one of the pathways of sustaining growth and prosperity in post-oil future. We believe that Edo State can serve as a pathfinder for the nation in the post-oil economy. We recognise that culture and tourism are powerful tools for this progress.”