Merit Ibe

The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has urged the Federal Government to immediately re-open the country’s land borders to boost the economy and attract the much-needed investments following the official flag-off of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) slated for January 1, 2021.

MAN’s President, Mr. Mansur Ahmed, who spoke during a virtual meeting in Lagos, said the timing was right for the suspension of the border closure in quest for AfCFTA’s success.

He said the association understood government’s stance on the border closure following the massive smuggling and importation of counterfeit goods and other agriculture products into the country. 

Ahmed explained that the closure one year after cannot be a sustainable arrangement as it was originally meant to be closed for certain period to correct the abnormalities. 

He advised that the government should take the opportunity of the agreement to improve  infrastructure for trade, to keep smuggling at bay, saying the “borders should be opened because we are now about to  start the AfCFTA, so that legitimate businesses can continue.”

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In a similar development, the Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr. Muda Yusuf,  also said the private sector expected the Federal Government to re-open the borders because of its imperative to the country’s economic fortunes following its negative contribution to trade since the closure one year ago. He said the country’s economic growth had remained subdued at two per cent this year due to the border closure and other challenges, insisting that the country’s economy remains susceptible to external shocks, especially, oil price fluctuations. 

Noting that the policy has enormous implications for cross border economic activities, the chamber said it shares concern of  government on issues of security and smuggling, adding that indefinite closure of the borders is not the solution to the problem. 

Expressing excitement over the signing of the AfCFTA, Yusuf emphasised the need for the country to get prepared for the pressure of competition inherent in the continental economic integration agenda.  

“A number of commitments were made about the creation of an environment that would enable the private sector to be competition ready. But not much has happened in this regard so far.”

Ahmed said: “We understood why the border closure took place because, at one point, the massive importation and smuggling of counterfeits and other unacceptable products.

“For instance, bags of rice that have been stored in warehouses for 10 to 15 years are being imported at obviously very low prices thereby, making it very impossible for our rice millers to do their businesses to provide that to the market.