The gains of the land border closure are more than the disadvantage that has risen since the initiative was implemented.
President, Rice Millers Association of Nigeria and the Managing Director of Elephant Group, Tunji Owoeye, has asserted while defending the directive.
Owoeye said irrespective of how people view the border closure, its advantages have been enormous compared to the pains experienced since President Muhammadu Buhari gave the directive.
The gains are worth the pains: Owoeye said these gains are not only being experienced in rice and other commodities sectors, as it spreads across.
“From our understanding, the government is not saying that they should not bring goods into Nigeria, but the government has decided that over 1,800 porous routes that they smuggle goods into the country should be properly manned.
“How much manpower do you want to put at all these illegal routes? Smuggling activities have thrived for long because of the vast area that we have which we now need to secure. It becomes practically impossible for customs to man all of these routes, and because of this, smugglers have taken advantage of the lapses to engage in the illicit trade activities.
“But what the government is saying is that they are not preventing them from bringing goods into Nigeria, but they should go through the seaports or the airports where we can effectively manage the process. So I do not think there is anything bad in closing the border.
“Also, in terms of the gains, they are many. It is not only in rice and other commodities sectors. Let us look at poultry; a lot of poultry farmers have had contracts for the next three to five years and local production of poultry products have grown as the sector is currently booming, which was not so before now.”
He also stated that the border closure has dealt – to some extent – with the smuggling problem Nigeria faces. It has improved the security around the border.
Impact of border closure: Owoeye said the closure has led to job opportunities, increasing the employment numbers through agricultural growth, “Much more employment is being generated in the agricultural sector. In the poultry sector alone more youths are being attracted into it, not to talk about other agricultural sub-sectors and their value chains. This has made farming more attractive and if it continues, Nigeria would not only become self-sufficient in food production, we will start exporting.”
The problem of border closure: Since the border closure, inflation has risen, prices have increased, affecting the purchasing power of Nigerians. But Owoeye said the rise of inflation will be calmed six months from now.
According to him, production increase will see to the fall of inflation, “Though the inflation rate may be going up now with two to three percent, which is marginal, but I will advise Nigerians to exercise patience because it will pay off in less than six months from now. It will definitely come down because there would be more and more production activities in Nigeria for this policy moves. When you consider textile, rice and every other sectors, you will note a positive shift in terms of sectoral performance.
“Besides, the savings Nigeria has made from the petroleum sector shows that Nigeria has been subsidising the product for the whole of West Africa all these years. Over 40 percent of our national budget has been going into petroleum subsidy for the whole of West Africa, but with this policy, we are saving so much from the petroleum products that used to go to other countries free of charge.”
Border should remain closed: Owoeye said the border should remain closed until Nigeria’s neighbouring countries take necessary steps as requested by Nigeria to beef up border security and stop smuggling.
He said Nigeria can’t keep suffering in silence for the benefit of other countries, “We are not saying that it should not be reopened, but that the neighbouring countries should act according to the ECOWAS treaty. There are terms and conditions of the relationship, all these laws have been there but they have always disregarded it.”