On August 20th 2019, the federal government ordered the closure of its land borders. Arguments regarding the decision over the weeks seem to suggest that it is the right decision, but, at the wrong time and in the wrong manner.
It’s no longer news that over-dependency on importation has been one of the major factors that have put our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth on a life support. A neutral mind, whose judgment is induced by a clear understanding of the Nigerian GDP growth especially in comparison with other world economies with little or nothing to call resources, would admit that Nigeria is addicted to consumption and allergic to production. And, for an economy with such unhealthy syndrome, it’s good enough to applaud the border closure. But border closure could be considered by others as antiquated military strategy to whip citizens to become emergency patriots; however, if borders are closed with a plan to reset the economy and gain high production, taking the global market by storms could become a resultant benefit.
As a strategic effort to encourage local production and consumption, if endured and embraced by all, this decision could pave a way out for our stagnant economy. Sometimes ago, China closed its borders for a very long time and by the time they were reopened, the country had gained economic and production strength. As a developing economy, domesticating global best practices with considerations of unlikely variables will surely catalyse our growth and development.
However, there is a concern which is likely to be a shared concern with millions of other citizens and likely to fire up resistance to this policy: can we maintain a closed system free of cheating? Can we all subscribe to entering ‘The Hot Kitchen’ to prepare the ‘The Desired Meal? Can political office holders stop flying abroad for medical care or buying foreign cars for official use so that our local manufacturers and assemblers wouldn’t be discouraged? Can we curb smuggling? All these are questions challenging the policy.
It’s important to also note that Nigeria, as the ‘Big brother’ of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), is not closing its borders to sabotage the economies of other member states or the economy of the countries whose help it needs, it is simply strategic to encourage local production and consumption. I therefore call on all concerned citizens and stakeholders to be critical and rational about the policy. Policies such as land border closure should be enacted with trust and implemented with integrity to foster socio-economic adjustments – a necessity for growth at a time like this.
Sule Matthew, Dept of Information and Media studies, Bayero University, Kano