Farmers Hail Border Closure as Manufacturers Count Losses

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Dike Onwuamaeze

It was a mixed reaction yesterday at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Stakeholders’ Forum on the ‘Impact of Border Closure on the Nigeria’s Economy’ as operators in the agriculture sector hailed the border closure by the government as the best action taken by the government to boost the Nigerian economy.

Meanwhile, manufacturers have urged the federal government to lift the closure in order to promote export trade and prevent manufacturing firms from extinction.

Vice Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Lagos State chapter, Agbeshakin Agbeyewa, stated that within the short period the border closure lasted, their members had experienced boom in the sale of their products.

According to him, “We the farmers are enjoying it, mostly rice farmers. That is why I want to appeal to our policymakers to continue to shut the borders as long as they can.”

He said the impact of the border closure on the agriculture sector has encouraged the growth of packaging and logistics companies as well as creating jobs in the transport sector, sack making and printing industries. “So the border closure is effective and we pray it stays that way,” he added.

However, the Director-General of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr. Segun Ajayi-Kadir, who was represented by the Director of Corporate Communication, Ambrose Oruche, argued that border closure is not sustainable even though it has helped in addressing the issue of smuggling, which he said is the bane of the economy.

Kadir said while it takes eight days to transport manufactured goods to Mali through the land border, it now takes eight weeks to move goods through Nigeria’s seaports to Mali.

“You will agree with me that this has a cost implication for that product. You will also agree with me that we are in a globalised economy, and Mali is also importing these products for the benefits of its citizens from other countries. The cost implication will make us noncompetitive when it comes to other West African countries.

“So let us find a way of curtailing smuggling without shutting down the borders. Food and beverage sector has also experienced the negative impact they encounter while exporting their products to neighbouring ECOWAS countries. It is a huge challenge to them, and many of them are scaling down their production because of the difficulties in exporting their product. Exporting the goods through the sea ports to West African countries is not cost effective, and it renders their products noncompetitive against Asian products. That affects export, and we want the policy to be reviewed,” he said.

Also, according to the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), who was represented by Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs, Mrs. Kaycee Ekekezie, Nigeria was constrained to close its land borders because of the unwillingness of its neighbouring countries to abide by the ECOWAS protocol on the transit of persons and goods, “which provided that when a transit container berths at a seaport, the receiving country should escort same (without tampering with the seal) to the border of the destination country and hand same over to the customs officials of the destination country.

“Unfortunately, experience has showed that our neighbours do not comply with this protocol. Rather they break the seals of the container on transit to Nigeria at their country, which would in turn make entry into Nigeria and trans-load same unto Nigerian trucks,” Ali said, adding that the NCS could not tell when the border would be reopened.

The President of the LCCI, Mrs. Toki Mabogunje, on her own, stated that Nigeria’s land borders with her neighbours were shut on August 20, 2019, to curtail the smuggling of rice, other staple products, arms and ammunition, petrol as well as to strengthen internal security.

“This policy action has had positive and negative implications for the economy. On the positive, we have seen appreciable increase in domestic rice and poultry product production. Fuel smuggling to neighbouring countries has reduced. The directive paid off for the Nigeria Customs Service as revenue generated by the agency increased to N1.34 trillion in 2019 from N1.2 trillion in 2018,” she said.

“On the flip side, the closure of the land borders has triggered inflationary pressure through rising food prices. Food inflation continues to uptrend, hitting a record 14.7 per cent in December 2019, which is the highest in 20 months. This policy pronouncement has also led to unplanned losses for manufacturers, especially those who export their products to neighbouring countries by road,” LCCI boss said.