- The Federal Government on Monday, October 14, announced a total ban on the import and export of goods at the land borders nationwide as part of an ongoing joint border operation, tagged: “Exercise Swift Response”.
- The operation began on August 20, involving Customs and immigration with support from Army and other security agencies.
- The adherence to the border closure is being coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and covers the four geopolitical zones, including South-south, Southwest, North-central and the North-west.
- Briefing newsmen in Abuja on Monday, the Comptroller General of Customs (CGC), Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd) said: “Te embargo will last as long as it will take our neighbours to come to the table and agree to execute exactly what was agreed upon during former Olusegun Obasanjo’s time which is simple adherence to ECOWAS transit procedure. That has not happened.”
- Local dealers, who want to export or to import items, are advised to use the seaports, the only access at present.
By Muda Yusuf (Director –General, LCCI)
The closure of Nigerian land borders for close to two months now has come with benefits and costs. There are upsides and downsides. Reports indicate a drastic reduction in smuggling of rice, poultry products and sugar.
The smuggling of petroleum products outside the country to neighboring countries has also declined considerably. We note and appreciate these outcomes.
But it is important to reckon with the costs, supply chain disruptions and loses those businesses and individuals have suffered as a result of the closure.
Corporate, large number of informal sector players and individuals doing legitimate businesses across the borders have become victims of the border closure. This poses a dilemma. The government means well, but there are many innocent casualties.
As we celebrate the benefits, we should also count the costs. Jobs have been lost, prices have skyrocketed, legitimate exports to the sub region have been halted, intermediate products for some manufacturers have been cut off, some multinationals companies have been de-linked from their sister companies in the sub region.
The economies of border communities have been paralyzed with consequences for unemployment and poverty.
“ Distributive trade sector accounts for about 15% of the nations GDP, which is estimated at 20 trillion naira ”
Over 90% of Nigeria’s trade with the West African sub region is by road. We export manufactured products as well as agricultural products – detergents, toothpastes, plastic products, steel products, kitchen utensils, grains, ginger, and onions, among others.
We also undertake many re- exports to the sub region. These are sources of livelihood of Nigerians doing legitimate businesses. There are also thousands of transporters who make a living from these legitimate trading activities.
These are costs that would run into hundreds of billions of naira. We must weigh the costs and benefits. Most often we do not count the cost of government policy on the citizens and businesses.
We should not underestimate the contribution of trade and commerce to the economy of the country.
Distributive trade sector accounts for about 15% of the nations GDP, which is estimated at 20 trillion naira. Traders play a major role in the value chain of the real sector activities in the economy. The trade sector is perhaps the largest employer of labor in the Nigerian economy.
Meanwhile, this is not to diminish the importance of security in the border management process. It is also true that neighboring countries have been sabotaging government efforts to curb smuggling and check insecurity. The government has a duty to manage the situation and deploy appropriate responses.
However, we need to fix the structural, institutional and policy shortcomings that perpetuate the phenomenon of smuggling and increases vulnerabilities.
And unless we address these shortcomings, it would be difficult to put an end to the problems of smuggling.