I humbly guess that the individual who suggested the theme of this essay is not an uninformed citizen, but one of high intellect who sees the need to hear the views of like-citizens on the recent subject matter. It is of no new phenomenon that the borders granting access to the giant of Africa have been on lock and key for a couple of months. This has called for concern to the masses as this unusual event orchestrates various effects to the Nigerian economy and populace at large.
Clearly, and by the nation’s geographical map, the Federal Republic of Nigeria shares land borders with Niger to the north, Republic of Benin to the west and Chad and Cameroon to the east. The order for closure, which was issued on Monday 14 October, 2019, was in the bid to cub the menace of smuggling. To some, it was a shock – an economic shock and to others, it was a threat to free trade across regions. It followed that prices of goods got inflated incessantly due to their scarcity in the market.
Just weights and balances are crucial elements of fairness. The effect of the closure of borders, also, cannot be undermined. Thus, it is pertinent to weigh the effects of the closure to conclude on a justification or otherwise.
To start with, the directive results in restriction of import and export of goods across the land borders. This means that local made goods cannot be sold out. In the same vein, foreign made goods cannot be bought in. The border closure has impacted Nigerian consumers and exporters with traders being refused entry of goods, even those for which they have already paid customs duties and consumers facing inflated prices of imported food products—with some products having doubled in price.
Also, the porosity of Nigerian land borders cannot be overemphasized. I am very sure that aside the major land borders at boundaries with other nations, there are several illegal entries to the giant of Africa – a not so good feature of her. According to The Cable, a newspaper outlet, on Dec 5, 2019, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria reported that some 10-20% of Nigerian fuel is smuggled into the neighbouring countries. It is vivid that the porous borders enables traders to escape excise duties, tariffs, charges and encourage smuggling of which the closure of borders by the Federal Government tends to curb to the barest minimum.
More so, the closure of borders is to the end that local production of cash and food crops is vehemently encouraged. However, the criticism to this view is that, as at now, the nation does not have the capacity to meet those increasing demands. The government has provided incentives and inputs for farmers but supply is not yet equal to demand, not even near. The demand excels domestic production. Exempli gratia, rice is one of the most staple foods consumed in Nigeria. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, domestic production of rice was 3.7 tonnes in 2018/19 which do not have the propensity of satisfying half of the demand. The closure of borders has made foreign rice unavailable, and if available, costly. The introduction of local rise to the masses comes with hindrances. Some of the rice are stony and inadequately processed from rice farms.
Furthermore, the advent of informal trade that takes place across the land borders cannot be ignored. It is nearly impossible to estimate the value and volume of the informal trade that takes place across the land border. This is because menial jobs with meagre wages are provided for individuals to manage themselves. Although, there is no available data, it is not illogical to think of this. Without contradiction, this will result into several millions of naira on a daily basis providing several thousand with a daily means of livelihood.
To this very end, there is need for safe neighborhoods, secure borders and protection from “foxes that spoil the vine”. Hence, to ensure a growing economy without impediments, all concerned agencies, alongside the Federal Government must work hand in glove to ensure a balance between individual’s and government’s interests.
By – AKANLE, Samuel
(Winner, IWH Competition – Essay Category)