One of the Nigerian exporters affected by the border closure, Bamidele Ayemibo, a trade finance expert, has thrown more light on why Nigerians need to support President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to close Nigeria’s land borders. The exporter disclosed that some African countries had been blocking Nigeria’s revenue opportunities by breaching Ecowas’ treaty.
“When the government came out with the data to show the reason why (for border closure), I think the reason is very logical, I just have issue with the way they went about doing it. But I think it (border closure) was necessary because if we continue on that path (smuggling), we would allow another country to be feeding fat on us and are the expense of our own people.
“So, I think government, to a large extent, is right with what they did, but I think it could have been done in a better way,” the lead consultant for 3T Impex Trade Academy said during an interview with Nigeria Info.
Why African countries are bothered
While defending the border closure, Ayemibo said some African countries were breaching the Ecowas treaty which says the exporting country is expected to receive only taxes for allowing the goods pass through its territory, but not meant to open the containers or receive duty, as inspection and collection of duty is the job of the importing (destination) countries.
But other African countries are inspecting the containers, receiving taxes and duties, as well as allowing individuals offload the containers and smuggle the goods into Nigeria. This way, Nigeria doesn’t make any revenue from the containers.
During the interview, Ayemibo explained that, “It’s like you are stealing to feed your family, now, someone says that has to stop. If you are using this stolen money to fund your budget, that means if you stop and you are already relying on it, planning with it, then the economy will collapse. I guess that’s why it’s tough for them (neighbouring African countries).”
Ayemibo said the exporters were the most affected group in the border closure period. He said they had bank loans to pay back, giving an example of another exporter that had received millions of dollars for export proceeds before the border closure, but the company was unable to ship the goods out of Nigeria.
“And I think government should try compensate especially the exporters who are currently suffering because of this issue. We should compensate the exporters because these are people who are creating jobs in Nigeria. The importers are not really creating jobs, but exporters are creating jobs in Nigeria, and some of them have inventories sitting in their warehouse, they have bank loan to pay, they have salaries to pay.
“And this is a concern really, and government needs to do something about it. To me, it’s like we are solving a problem with one hand and we are creating another problem on the other hand. Two/three steps forward and ten steps backwards, that’s the way I’m seeing it.
“That’s why I’m saying there will be need for them (exporters) to be compensated. I heard of the case of a company who got some millions of dollars into Nigeria as export proceeds in advance but are unable to ship the goods. So, I think government really needs to compensate them.”
Exporters need to find alternative
Ayemibo advised exporters, whose goods have been trapped in Nigeria, to find other alternative routes such as sea and land. Although he acknowledged that the alternative routes are expensive, he said exporters have no choice because business must continue despite land closure.
“I was at a programme and a lady raised this issue. And I said, this is a political issue and Government has taken a stand but the business must continue. So I told her why not consider sea. We didn’t close border like China, we only close land border, so sea is still open, Air is still open.
“So we still doing export and we still doing import. Only that the 12% (export) that we do via land is being affected because of this border closure. And she said its (sea export) a bit expensive and I can understand.” Ayemibo said.
When he was questioned about timing via sea, he said the exporters would be there (African country) in three/four days or a week. So, while the exporters have been stuck (by land borders) for weeks, they could have shipped their products within a week. He added that there was need for exporters to find an alternative route which is expected to remain closed till ending of January 2020.