… The measure not meant to create dissonance, but ensure rational international trade relations, peaceful co-existence
The Presidential Inter-Ministerial Committee on border closure has reported that the partial border closure has significantly reduced the prevalence of illegalities around the borders and positively impacted such key sectors of the Nigerian economy like oil and gas, agriculture, industry, etc.
The policy measures, according to the committee, of which Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, is the chairman, have considerably curtailed the activities of smugglers, irregular migrants and other forms of criminality.
“It has also made communities around the land and maritime border routes to be more aware of the overriding benefits of effective border control to economic development and national security, as well as the need to protect the country’s sovereignty,” it said.
The border closure, the committee stated, was not meant to create dissonance but to ensure a more rational international trade relations and peaceful co-existence that would promote cooperation and integration amongst Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member communities. It also stated that while borders are being opened, measure and machinery are in place to check possible abuse of the efforts of government towards enhancing its economic interests and national security.
Meanwhile, apart from approving the re-opening of four land borders; Seme (South-West), Illela (North-West), Maigatari (North West/North East) and Mfum (South South) on 30th November, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari has also directed that in order not to reverse the gains already made or return the country to the era prior to border closure, the ban on rice, poultry and all other banned items still subsists.
The committee which was set up to comprehensively assess the impact of the closure and make appropriate recommendations and also to enable Mr. President take appropriate decision on the matter, recommended, among others, the need to strengthen the workforce of relevant government security agencies with modern facilities (surveillance cameras, drones) funding for training, payment of entitled allowances to effectively monitor the entry and exit points in the event the joint border operation ceased to operate;
“The need for Nigeria as members of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme and signatory to the recently signed African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement to dismantle all barriers to ensure free movement of goods across the continent and work towards opening the land borders before the commencement of the treaty on 1st January, 2021,” it recommended.
The committee noted that the Nigerian land borders were closed on 20th August, 2019 with restriction of human movements through the designated authorised border posts between the hours of 0600 and 1800 daily; that the partial border closure was necessitated by the increased smuggling activities, armed banditry, human trafficking, irregular migration, proliferation of small arms and light weapons, and other trans-border crimes.
According to the committee, the porosity of the country’s land borders and existence of numerous unmanned routes strewn all over Nigeria has over time posed serious threat to the nation’s economy and nationals.
The committee further noted that the continued closure of the borders had negatively impacted some private sector businesses through loss of market share, dwindling capacity utilisation and high inventory of unsold finished manufactured goods, especially those with market base and significant presence in West Africa which ultimately led to unemployment and poor credit rating.
“Nigeria as the most industrialised in the region is a leading member of ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) with registration of about 2,433 indigenous companies and about 6,973 products, estimated at about 65 percent of the total companies registered under the scheme, hence had unwittingly limited her market through the border closure.