Nigeria’s land border with neighbouring countries to remain closed until 2020 as the government intensifies what is seen as a radical move, to check smuggling of goods into the populous African nation.
Though unilateral border closures go against all commercial and freedom of movement treaties signed under the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Nigeria has justified its decision.
It has directed affected traders to use the country’s ports where authorities can easily monitor goods coming into and going out of the country.
“Nobody stops goods coming in from the ports” Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Ghana, Olufemi Abikoye told Ghana’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey on Tuesday in Accra ahead of a closed-door meeting on the matter.
According to Mr Abikoye, a joint taskforce set up by the Nigerian government has within a month made a major bust of goods, including ammunition, which were being smuggled into the country.
“With just one month of this partial temporarily closure of the border, the taskforce was able to seize over 1,00 smuggled cars, over 5,000 jerry can of petroleum products, over 20,000 bags foreign rice, thousands of ammunition,” he stated.
A Ghanaian delegation led by Ms Ayorkor Botchwey on Tuesday engaged with the Nigerian High Commission at a closed-door meeting on the matter following complaints by Ghanaian traders who have been hit by the land border closure.
He explained that “initially, it was supposed to be for just 20 something days but only last Monday, over 20,000 bags of foreign rice” were seized at a time that the government was reviewing the decision on the closure.
The High Commissioner said on the back of that development, the government directed the taskforce to go back to the drawing board to put in place effective strategies to curb the situation which is not only threatening Nigeria’s economy but security.
The Nigerian government, he said, is of the view that the “temporary closure of the border cannot be the solution”.
He said there are ongoing consultations with neighbouring countries on how to stop the smuggling at the various land borders.
Mr Abikoye admitted “Ghana is not part of it [the smuggling],” noting “Ghana is far away from it”.
But Ms Ayorkor Botchwey has underscored the need for Nigeria to we need to look at how its decision “is affecting other countries other than the countries that are actually creating these problems or Nigeria”.
Why closure of borders?
President Muhammadu Buhari in August announced closure of Nigeria’s land borders to goods trade, declaring the time had come to end rampant smuggling across the porous frontiers.
The AFP reported Monday that the closure has had a devastating impact on Benin, Nigeria’s neighbour to the west, which has been a key exporter of foodstuffs to Africa’s most populous country.
The closure has also cast a shadow over a historic free-trade agreement, signed by 54 out of 55 African countries that reached a key operational threshold in July, the report said.