Merit Ibe

Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has called on the Federal Government to review the border closure and put measures in place to guard against ill practices at the country’s land borders. 

The call is coming one year after the country’s land borders were shut by the Federal Government. The closure was aimed at curbing smuggling. MAN noted that the policy was not sustainable, and urged the government to call stakeholders to a round table meeting and review the achievements so far, while putting in place right structures.

Its acting Director General, Paul Oruche, recommended assessment of what the country has achieved in terms of stopping the smuggling of small and sophisticated arms and other reasons for the closure, as the move would enable the Federal Government take a decision on going forward. The Federal Government has kept mum on the closure policy and determined to sustain it until neighbouring countries stop violating Nigeria’s laws against food smuggling, placing a ban on both legitimate and illegitimate movement of goods in and out of the country.

Oruche said the country’s achievements in terms of business was neither here nor there, noting that the environmental toll of the policy has been high, with the fate of businesses gloomy. With the long term effect of the closure on the economy, which, he said, was devastating and  a hindrance to the AFCFTA, as trade cannot commence with closed borders, he urged the government to act fast, because businesses were crumbling and stifling the economy. “We have seen protocols and agreement on the free trade. When the border is closed, can it work?”

While some stakeholders are in deep pain, some few others are smiling to the banks in support of the closure.

He said though the rice producers said they smiled to bank because Nigerians now eat local rice, he queried what would become the fate of other exporters of other products and manufactured goods that take their goods through the land borders and bring in their raw materials from ECOWAS with the ECOWAS Trade Liberation Scheme (ETLS).

“With the border closure, and the wave of the COVID -19 pandemic, the pains of exporters have aggravated. The closure has posed a major risk to  economic growth,” he said.

He noted that over 90 percent of Nigeria’s trade with the West African sub-region is by road, so the effect of the closure is devastating.

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Bemoaning the state of our ports’ facilities, which he said has discouraged exporters from using that means of transport to ship there goods, he said the government does not see the contribution of exporters, which is one of the reasons for forex challenge, because the country depends mainly on one source of forex.

“How do you expect exporters to do export under this draconic environment.”

He said the border policy, which is not a permanent solution, has not stopped smuggling as foreign goods are seen in the markets, which  indicates that the Customs was compromised.

The MAN boss, who affirmed the purpose of the closure has not been achieved, as small arms, rice, illegal trade were still thriving, lamented that  the  closure was against official businesses doing the right thing, as smuggling was still on.

“The border is only closed to official, genuine and legal businesses. Illegal trade, human trafficking still thrive. The closure is just working against official businesses doing the right thing, if you don’t want to do the right thing, there are illegal ways.

“I proffer that the Federal Government should call a stakeholders’ meeting and review our achievements, and put in place structures to guard against the ills at the borders.

“Since the closure, fake and substandard products have been flowing in. It is not a sustainable plan towards a long period of time.

“It has not stopped anything, we need our position. Food inflation is increasing. The AFCFTA cannot move on with border closure.

“Open the borders and put measures in place to curb the evil practices. World Bank report on our economy is so terrifying that the country needs to act fast. Businesses are crumbling and stifling the economy.”

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