By Etuka Sunday
Despite the controversies generated, locally and internationally, in favour and against the border closure, rice and poultry farmers are smiling to the banks due to bumper sales.
A visit to some Markets within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja revealed that the demand for food stuffs especially, Nigerian rice and eggs have actually gone up. This is equally the positive reports obtained from the Markets across the country.
Hitherto, the country’s Markets and border space were taken over by smuggling and dumpling activities to the obvious disadvantage of the farmers, traders and Nigeria’s economy.
Nigerians’ insatiable appetite for foreign goods and corruption should be blamed for aiding this illegal business over the years. Consequently, this has made it very difficult for successive governments to change the narrative.
All thanks to the present administration through the doggedness and resilience of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele for leading the country on this part of long awaited prosperity.
The unprecedented step came two months ago, August 21, 2019 to be precise, when the federal government announced the closure of all its land borders to tackle dumping and smuggling of goods into the country.
Prior to the border closure, the CBN has introduced policies and several interventions to increase patronage of made in Nigeria products.
The policies and interventions were meant to redirect the nation’s focus from being a heavy dependent or a consumer of foreign goods, to a more productive nation, consuming its products.
Rather than maintaining the existing state of affairs, particularly with regards to exporting jobs and impoverishing the people, CBN introduced a highly successful policy which restricted sale of Forex from the Nigerian Foreign Exchange Market for the importation of some 43 items-goods that could be produced in Nigeria.
Quite frankly, CBN demonstrated the needed determination to wean the country from the clutches of powerful and highly influential traders and dealers who have kept the masses of Nigerians hostage to foreign consumption and condemned the youths to perpetual unemployment.
The apex bank was not unilateral in her decision, hence the stakeholders were adequately contacted and briefed. In fact, it even sought for the support of all relevant government agencies to rally round it in checking the activities of these economic saboteurs.
The border closure was long over due. We may say the present action came too late, because one anticipated it to have come a little bit earlier, but it is better late than never.
According to World Bank, about 80% of imports into Benin are destined for Nigeria. Nigeria banned the importation of rice from Benin in 2004 and from all its neighbours in 2016, but that has not stopped the trade, hence the drastic action.
Expectedly, there are reports that the ban is affecting trade across the region, but the truth is that Nigeria’s economy has witnessed a bullish turn around since the action was taken.
CBN’s governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele while recounting the benefits of the border closure last week in Abuja said, 25, 000 metric tones of milled rice were unsold because of the smuggling and dumpling of rice through Republic of Benin border and other border posts in the country.
Emefiele said, the Poultry Association of Nigeria also reported that its members have thousands of crates of eggs that they could not sell, together with some of the processed chicken that they could not sell also arising from the problem of smuggling and dumpling of poultry products into Nigeria.
He said, a week after the borders were closed all the Rice they had in their warehouses were sold. The poultry association also said, they have sold all their eggs, and processed chicken and that the demand is rising.
“So when you ask what are the benefits, the benefits of the border closure on Nigerian economy is that it has help to create jobs for our people, it has also help to bring our integrated rice Mills we have in this country back into business again and they are making money.
“Our rural communities are bobbling because there are activities. Rice farmers are selling. The Poultry business is also doing well and maize farmers are also doing business. These are the benefits.
“We are not saying that the borders should be closed in perpetuity but that before the borders can be reopened, there must be concrete engagements with countries that are involved in using their Ports as landing ports by bringing goods that are smuggled into Nigeria,” he said.
The Federal government said her action was not to punish anyone, but her neighbors despite several engagements at securing compliance with trade treaties and agreements, have blatantly dishonored and disrespected Nigeria, thus, the federal government was left with no other option than to take this drastic action to restore them back to commitments.
This underscored the initial reluctance of the federal government in signing the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and if Nigeria must be a signatory, she must ensure that rules are obeyed.
Emefiele said, “engagements must be held so that we can agree on the basis of the goods that will land in those countries. If those products that they land in their countries are meant for their local consumption then it is understandable.
“But for the fact that those products are landed in their countries and then smuggled into Nigeria is something that should not be allowed to happen because it undermines our economic policies. It undermines our own desires to ensure that industries are alive and jobs are created in Nigeria.”
Nigeria customs boss, Hameed Ali was recently quoted to have said that tax revenues had gone up as cargo destined for Benin was now arriving at Nigerian ports.
“One day in September, a record N9.2billion was collected, which had never happened before.
“After the closure of the border and since then, we have maintained an average of about N4.7billion to N5.8billion on a daily basis, which is far more than we used to collect,” he said.
Again, the Director-General of the Department for State Services (DSS), Mr. Magaji Bichi was quoted to have said that the closure of Nigeria’s borders has helped to reduce the inflow of smuggled firearms and enabled security agencies to keep track of the movement of people who pose a threat to the security of the country.
Like Nigeria, Ghana wants to stop rice and poultry imports. Nairametrics Report has it that the country is putting plans in place to ban the importation of rice and poultry in three years’ time. This information was made public by the Minister of Agriculture for the West African nation, Dr Owusu Afriyie-Akoto.
This is coming weeks after Ghana begged Nigeria to open its borders, adding that it was heavily affected by Nigeria’s decision to close its borders.
The report quoted Dr Afriyie-Akoto as saying that Ghana wants to divert its attention into boosting local production and shun heavy reliance on rice and poultry importation, hence the three years’ timeline.
It was pointed out that 82% of the bulk of Ghana’s imports is for rice alone. This accounts for over $1 billion, a calculation that translates into almost 2% of Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to Ghana Deputy Trades Minister, Robert Ahomka Lindsay.
Ghana Agric Minister wants to combat this importation struggle through a flagship programme known as Planting for Food and Jobs in order to boost local capacity to meet high demand as well as simulate trade between merchants and local farmers.
The report that the rice was making its way into Nigeria to meet the shortfall in local production for a country of almost 200 million people was false. Because, with the targeted 700, 000 farmers under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme of CBN, Nigeria has enough rice to feed her population.
Lastly, for the prophets of doom who are predicting nothing but severe hunger for Nigeria because of the border closure, they should be well informed that rice is not the only food in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, there is no sign that the borders will be reopened any time soon, and Nigerian government will not be cajoled into accepting to do that just to please the nighbouring countries at the expense of her economy.