By. Bala Ibrahim
As a country, Nigeria is bordered by the Republic of Benin in the West, Chad and Cameroon in the East, and Niger in the North. The Gulf of Guinea lies to the South, while the Lake Chad is to the Northeast. In August, and in line with his promise to bring to an end the rampant smuggling across the porous frontiers, PMB directed the closure of all the land borders to all movement of goods.
In announcing the closure, the Comptroller General of Customs, col. Hamid Ali retd. said, “All goods, for now, are banned from being exported or imported through our land borders, and that is to ensure that we have total control over what comes in,”
Although the country has neighbors everywhere, the closure has had a more devastating effect on Benin Republic, Nigeria’s neighbor to the West, which has been a key exporter of foodstuffs to the country. Benin was terribly miffed, upset and unhappy by the move, which took the country by surprise. I read frightening statistics of Benin’s import in second hand clothes, vehicles and countless consumables, clearly all at variance with the population statistics and the purchasing capacity of the country. Which means, the country is just a conduit pipe for those interested in economic crimes.
Many sensationalists at home, mostly defeated political critics of the president, became the mouthpiece of a country, that engages in acts of breaking or failing to observe ratified laws, agreements, or code of conduct. Through all manner of talks and tweets, they kept bothering the Government and presenting stories in a way that is intended to provoke negative public interest or excitement, almost all the time, at the expense of the truth. A case of people putting politics, over and above patriotism.
Reports have it that when PMB met with the Benin President, Patrice Talon, on the sidelines of the seventh Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD7), in Yokohama Japan, last August, one of the things he told him was that, Nigeria has had enough of the smuggling from the Benin end of the border. The president said now that our people in the rural areas are going back to their farms, and the country has saved huge sums of money, which would otherwise have been expended on importing rice using our scarce foreign reserves, we cannot allow smuggling of the product at such alarming proportions to continue.
From the indices released by the Government, Nigeria has been recording successes not just in revenue generation, but also drastic reduction in the upsurge of crime. Security sources are linking the fall in kidnappings, banditry and the constant crushing of the Boko Haram extremists in the Northeast, to the closure of the borders.
While the unpatriotic mouthpieces of Nigeria’s economic saboteurs, are busy castigating the Government for closing the borders, local manufacturers, particularly the indigenous rice farmers, are hailing the move, because their roads are sign-posted to the bank.
According to the CGC Hamid Ali: “What we have discovered is that most of those cargoes that used to go to Benin (Republic), and then discharged and smuggled into Nigeria, now that we have clossed the border, they are forced to bring their goods to either Apapa or Tin Can Island and we have to collect duty on them. If that would continue to us, it is a welcome situation. As a matter of fact, our revenue has not reduced, it is increasing as a result of closing the border. Customs has been making between N4.7 billion to N5.8 billion daily–more than the agency used to generate before the closure.
There is no doubt about the bitterness of the border closure bite on Benin’s economy, because of the sufferings of its people, who are now left with rotten tomatoes, vegetables and other goods on the Benin side of the border. These are goods that hitherto find their way to Nigeria without the payment of duties, because with a population of just 11 million, Benin’s economy is totally hinged on trade with Nigeria.
Petrol smuggling is another major crime committed against Nigeria to the Benin Republic, that is why there are quite a lot of petrol stations around Benin’s border with Nigeria.
Niger, Cameroon and Togo are also reeling from the effect of the policy, but the bulk of the blame is on the doorstep of Benin Republic. The Nigerian government says as soon as these countries prove that they are willing and ready to curb smuggling, by observing established protocols, the borders will be reopened for legitimate business.
Thank you PMB, for ignoring the bother, by closing the borders.