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EDITORIAL

Border closure: beyond current pains and gains

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FEDERAL Government of Nigeria, in a bid to check smuggling of goods, especially rice, light arms, automobiles and other contraband items, on August 20, this year, closed the country’s land borders with Republic of Benin, Niger and Cameroun.

 THIS, according to the federal government, was aimed at facilitating the growth of local investment in rice production, as well as checking the consumption of unhealthy food products by Nigerians.

The action has generated a lot of heated arguments among Nigerians and other foreign stakeholders who are active operators of commercial activities at the borders, either commending or condemning the action.

  WHILE businessmen are crying foul because they could no longer import and flood the markets with foreign goods, the masses are crying of additional hardship created by shortage of foodstuffs and other materials in the market and the inflation associated with it which has made the prices of available  goods to skyrocket.

  ALSO, local manufacturers are crying that they could no longer export their goods to neighbouring countries, even as some are claiming that the closure is threatening the job of their workers.

  ON THE other hand, the federal government, through some of its agencies like Nigeria Customs Service, Central Bank of Nigeria, among others, is maintaining that the country has recorded a lot of gains by the border closure.

 ACCORDING to the Director-General of the Department of State Service (DSS), Yusuf Bichi, the closure of the land borders has helped to check smuggling of arms into the country and helped the security agents to monitor the movement of people likely to undermine the security of the country.

FOR the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele, Nigerian Farmers (especially rice and poultry farmers) are making money, employing more people and investing more because of the virtual elimination of foreign competitors.

 MEANWHILE,  the Comptroller-General of Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Retired Col Hameed Ali disclosed that the revenue of Customs suddenly increased because importers who were routing their goods through the Benin Republic ports were forced to bring them through the Lagos ports, even as he preached the merits of Nigerian produced rice over those he termed “expired”, “ imported” varieties,

  FROM whichever angle one chooses to view the border closure and issues associated with it, the truth remains that every government policy or generally, every human action that is favourable to some people may not favour others.

What matters in this particular case of border closure is what is beneficial to the general good of Nigerians and at the same time, boosts the country’s economy.

  IN THAT case, it is clear that by closing the borders, the federal government is obviously ashamed of reckless dumping of smuggled imported goods, especially rice and second-hand automobiles, through the borders.

Although, there was no prior warning or consultation with the organised private sector and other legitimate participants in formal and informal sectors to enable them to prepare for such a measure, it is obvious that the federal government intervened to put an immediate stop to the sabotaging of the efforts of local farmers in Nigeria as a step to reviving agricultural production, particularly rice.

  IT IS well understood that the scarcity that followed the border closure is temporal and artificial as some people mopped up what was in the market immediately the borders were closed and hoarded it to create an increase in prices.

There is no doubt that the continued closure of the borders will not only encourage farmers to do more to meet the demands of the country but will attract more investors in Agric and other areas affected since they are sure they now have a market.

NATIONAL LIGHT believes that it is high time Nigerians tamed their habits of patronising foreign goods and look inwards to make use of what we have.

 WHILE commending the federal government for taking this bold step to end smuggling with a view to  developing the  Agric and other  sectors  to boost the nation’s economy, we urge governments at all levels not to lose sight of the fact that there is need for palliatives, to help the populace overcome the shock of the radical change.

To this end, local production and processing of rice and other Agric produce should be encouraged by giving grants and loans to real farmers, not people who do business with government money.

  ALSO, to avoid giving an opportunity to local producers who are taking advantage of the border closure to unduly enrich themselves at the expense of the citizenry. The government should ensure standardisation of the price of products through the establishment of price control agents across the country to monitor prices and ensure farmers and producers shouldn’t sell beyond a certain price.

 These agents should equally ensure that all defaulters are prosecuted with their companies or market stalls sealed to serve as a deterrent to others.

  THERE is also need for massive orientation of the populace on the need for the continued closure of borders since there is a lot of distracting politics going around with it since propagandists excel in hardship.

We urge businessmen, industrialists, governments and all well-meaning Nigerians to join hands in this campaign to make our society and country better. With the rate our population is growing, if we don’t begin now to plan to feed ourselves, and continue to depend on other countries, we are placing our lives and that of our future generation in danger.

  IS IT not better for us to close the borders to boost our economy than to leave the borders porous for a few individuals to enrich themselves?

WE THEREFORE call on all Nigerians to exercise patience with the government as the development seeks to give the government enough support to bring sanity into the system.

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