Many Nigerian industrialists and business commentators have hailed the Federal Government for reopening the country’s land borders in accordance with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) agreement.
Yesterday, four land borders were reopened by President Muhammadu Buhari 16 months since all Nigeria’s land borders were officially closed in August 2019. The borders reopened by the FG are Seme and Mfun in South West Nigeria, and Ilela and Maitagari in the North West.
Read Also: Economic Effects of the Border Closure
They praised him for intervening in the growing prices of goods and services in the country. Muda Yusuf, the Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry noted that government’s decision asserts Nigeria’s economic leadership in Africa.
‘It is a welcome development and will be beneficial to the economy. Many small businesses depend on cross-border trade for a living and many manufacturers also leverage the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme to boost their business.’
Charles Onunaiju, Director of the Center for China Studies in Abuja said
‘We cannot keep a closed border when we have signed on to free continental trade. It will be a huge contradiction,’
Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of Finance Budget and National Planning, just before the announcement, had disclosed that despite the planned reopening of the borders, restrictions, ban on certain commodities like rice, poultry, and others will remain. President Buhari tweeted that ‘Now that the message has sunk in with our neighbors, we’re looking into reopening the borders as soon as possible,’
The Nigerian borders with all its West African neighbours were closed to halt the massive smuggling of rice, arms, drugs, and illegal dumping of goods that served as debilitating factors to Nigeria’s manufacturing and economic efforts. This closure has gone a long way to improve the rice production and business ecosystem of the local rice trade. It is no longer news that Nigeria had long been a market for unfair import practices and her neighbours provided the loopholes.
Furthermore, the official closure helped Nigeria to contain the COVID-19 Pandemic during the lockdown period. While there were remarkably high casualties in Ghana, Nigeria witnessed relatively low casualties during the height of the ravaging scrooge.
Many international relations analysts praised Nigeria for putting herself first for economic and internal security reasons. For these analysts, the ‘Big Brother’ had borne so many wounds by giving ‘herself’ out to the detriment of its own self-development. It was an opportunity to improve its own agricultural capacity, removing herself from relying on its neighbours to feeds its own people This has accounted for Nigeria’s Emergence as the Second Largest Rice producer in Africa.
Many observers also note that it was a strategic means of ensuring the safety of the country and bolstering the custom duties accrued to Nigeria through the high capital exchanges between Nigeria and its Neighbours. Hameed Ali, Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs had asserted that Nigeria took the action because it needed total control of its affairs and its sovereignty.
Critics of the government have noted that the border closure had led to grave supply constraints that have led to the highest inflation in three years. Critics are also quick to point that given the high spate of insurgency which had led to low production yields on rice farms, the government had no choice but to revert to opening the borders. Other critics accused the government of stifling their neighbours to the point where they transferred their anger and aggression to Nigerians-in-Diaspora. This especially refers to the harassment of Nigerian traders in Ghana, which was seen by many as their response to the border closure,
Ghana launched stringent capital base measures to frustrate the retail businesses of Nigerians in Ghana. Many Africans were shocked at the abrupt change of Nigeria’s known policy direction from the ‘Big Brother’ status, as both Benin Republic and Ghana were adversely affected by the Government policy. Nigeria was noted to have gone against the Freedom of Movement Treaties signed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in which Nigeria is a key member. Unfortunately, Benin and Togo may continue with their unfair smuggling practices.
Experts noted that the reopening of the borders will go a long way to ease the implementation of the African Continental Free-Trade Area, (AFCFTA), an Africa-Wide agreement set for January 1, 2021. The Nigerian Government has expressed full commitment after it has shown some reluctance to the pact.