Pains, gains of land border closure, by LCCI, Customs

Sunny Nwankwo, Aba

 

AS the closure of Nigeria’s land borders enters the third month, more details of the effect were unveiled on Thursday.

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industries (LCCI) said it had brought suffering and losses to some businesses within and outside Nigeria.

LCCI’s Vice President and Chairman Gabriel Idahosa said: “People are paying higher for the local products at the moment.

“Also, some distributors of the foreign products are suffering loss of business because they had invested in becoming distributors from those countries.

“Their warehouses are currently empty because they have not got local suppliers to replace their foreign partners.

“The temporary hardship in terms of volume of trade is felt by both sides.

“Some companies in Ghana claimed they have lost up to two million dollars during the short period before the processes were put in place to resume exportation between both countries.

“Similarly, some Nigerian companies exporting to these countries have lost some money, but gradually, those losses are being mitigated,” Idahosa told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

On the ongoing Lagos International Trade Fair, Idahosa said the LCCI was able to secure special waivers from the Federal Government for exhibitors from Ghana and Benin Republic.

Idahosa said the exhibitors provided documents to show that they were coming for the fair and were allowed to bring their goods in through the land border.

Idahosa said the border closure did not affect the participation of West African countries in the ongoing 2019 Lagos International Trade Fair at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), Lagos.

He said the border closure forced us to address certain fundamental issues in our economy.

“We spend a lot of foreign currency to import petroleum products which are taken across the border, while we keep draining our foreign exchange to import the petroleum products.

“It has shown clearly from the volume of products we have now that this has been going on.

“On the other hand, it has also shown that our capacities to produce some of our products like rice and fishes are actually there, and if we continue to grow these capacities then, we can become truly self-sufficient.”

According to him, in the ongoing trade fair, there is Benue Rice selling at 16, 500 for 50kg, while another rice from some other states are selling for between 16, 000 and 18,000.

“Lots of people coming in for the trade fair have been buying rice here for that amounts and more states are bringing rice.

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“So, what the closure has done is to encourage our local producers to invest on increasing their production,” he said.

The LCCI vice president said that with time, the rice farmers would get it right through acquiring equipment that would improve the quality of their products.

“We have to put up with the poor quality for some time, but it is clear from our own members who are rice farmers that they are now energised by this opportunity,’’ he said.

Idahosa said that the closure had also compelled a lot of small and medium scale businesses to formalise and be properly documented by governments from all the affected countries, including Nigeria.

At different for a in Owerri and Aba, the Nigerian Customs Services (NCS) yesterday shed more light on the security exercise codenamed “Exercise Swift Response”.

The NCS said Exercise Swift Response was not only meant to secure Nigeria but also a policy to improve the country’s economy.

NCS Public Relations Officer, Joseph Attah, a Deputy Comptroller, stated this when the Strategic Communication Sub-Committee held a stakeholders’ meeting with importers and exporters in Aba.

The NCS spokesman said since the closure, over 230 illegal migrants had been arrested, 34, 321 bags of rice seized, 8, 982 PMS seized, 367 Jerry cans of AGO confiscated, 399 vehicles among others including illicit drugs that were equally seized.

According to him, while the land borders are still closed following the 2020 extension order by the Presidency, importers and exporters are free to use the sea and airports to carry on with their businesses.

He said: “This question has come repeatedly. When you go to the North, the people there will ask you, are you sure that the intensity with which you carry out this here is what you do in the West? When you go to the West, they’ll ask you if what you’re doing there is what you’re doing in the East. And here we are in the East, we are getting the same question.

“That’s what makes Nigeria tick. The fact that we’re able to go beyond our diversity and at the end of the day when Nigerians are confronted with the truth, they accept it, embrace and support the Government to achieve what is being done in their interest.”

He emphasized that the exercise is improving national security.

Attah said: “Over some time, trans-border crimes and criminalities have affected our safety on our roads, our homes and have affected our ability to yield dividends from our investments.

“For some strange reasons, our neighbours believe that they must take advantage of our size, our population and have turned us into a dumping ground.

“While we blame them, for some strange reasons too, Nigerians somehow believe that anything that comes from outside is better than what is locally produced even when the quality is in doubt.

“This shutdown of the borders has brought a paradigm shift in the level of patronage. Ask every Nigerian farmer today, they’re smiling to the banks. They’re getting increased patronage.

“Nigerians are eating fresher rice that’s devoid of chemicals, that’s nutritious and the farmers are expanding their farms, engaging more hands which create more job opportunities. So, the whole essence of this border closure is to boost our security and stimulate local growth.”

According to him, the border closure is a great opportunity for Aba.

“Aba is a city that’s known for creative individuals. It is also known for high quality locally made products. Why would somebody think that product made in Aba is not original?

“So, on the contrary, what’s happening is to the advantage of those who believe in industry, creativity and productivity. It’s not tribal-based, it’s not religious-based, but it’s in the interest of the nation,” he said.

Attah expressed regret that Nigeria, as a nation, had been playing the role of a big brother to many African nations without getting anything in return.

He said that President Muhammadu Buhari was now more and determined to reverse the ugly trend in the interest of the nation’s economy.

“Until such African countries come back to the negotiating table and begin to meet the prescribed ECOWAS guidelines, we will not move an inch,” he said.

The NCS image maker said that the customs regional border patrol now placed stronger emphasis on bushes with porous borders with air surveillance and tight scrutiny.

“Closure of our borders by the Federal Government was informed by the need to benefit our local producers and to reward them for their hard work.

“The Federal Government, through the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), the armed forces, the police, operatives of intelligent agencies have been pooled together to arrest this worrisome development,” Attah said.

 

 

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