The bold move by the Nigeria government to close all land borders with its neighboring countries has been received with mixed reactions. Whereas to some people, this step is a calculated attempt towards sabotaging their business, but to the Nigerian government, it serves as means of controlling imported goods into the country as well as a means of curtailing smuggling and importation of contrabands into the country. In August, President Mohammadu Buhari ordered the closure of Nigeria’s land border with Benin, preventing the importation of food items especially foreign rice. The more significantly affected trade is foodstuffs, which prior to now had already been affected by various import restrictions.
Significantly, the recent trends of violence and terrorism in Northern Nigeria equally played a role in Border closure due to the suspected emigration of terrorists from neighboring countries into Nigeria. Therefore, this recent move is part of an effort to tackle smuggling and associated corruption, but more firmly, to domestic agricultural in industry. Nigerian borders reflect late-nineteenth-century agreement among the British, French and Germans. Most Africa Borders were similarly created by European colonial powers. The point being the borders rarely reflect indigenous history or culture. In the case of Nigeria, while these are formal border crossings with customs services along the main roads, there are literally hundreds of others along foot parts and minor roads that are unregulated. The practical consequences of closing the land borders is likely to vary from one part of the country to another, based on the government’s capacity to enforce the closure.
The land border closure equally has its implications to the Nigeria economy and that of neighboring countries like Benin, Ghana, Cameroon Chad, alige among others. According to the comptroller, General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ali, Nigeria has closed its land borders to all movement of goods and has no timeline for reopening it. The border closure has increased the cost of goods and services especially due to the monopoly of some food items. Consequently, upon this, it has facilitated in high rates, the consumption of domestically grown foods like rice, tomatoes and maize and has increased profits tremendously to domestic farmers and producers. This is an indirect way in which the Nigerian government is telling her citizens to go back to farming and equally a way of strengthening their unalloyed support to agriculture which invariably consists of the only means of feeding the teeming populations.
Conversely, the border closure gradually constitutes a devastating effect on Nigeria’s neighbors, especially Benin, Nigeria neighbor to the west, which has been a key exporter of foodstuffs to Africa’s most populous country.
It has also skyrocketed the prices of food items such as rice at markets around Nigeria. The smuggling and importation of rice to Nigeria from Benin republic represent 70% in Benin and 90 percent employment. The economic relationship between the two countries, both members of ECOWAS is already asymmetric with Nigeria exerting much more influence in Benin than vice versa. This has affected the economy of Benin and other countries that has borders with Nigeria, making them to appeal to the Nigeria government to reopen its borders subsequently, the president of Cameroon and Ghana have reiterated the need for Nigeria to reopen it closed border to enhance free movement of goods and services and to further strength their economy.
In the light of the foregoing, it is pertinent to ask, does the gains supersedes the repercussions and, is the border closure the right step for the country now? Though after much cries and uproar, the country is gradually adapting to settling down with these restrictions. But then the questions still remains, how long will the border closure last?
Time will tell