It was different strokes for different folks, at the Stakeholders Forum, on the Impacts of Border Closure on the Economy, organized by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, held at the Commerce House, Idowu Taylor Street, V.I., Lagos, on Tuesday, February 18, 2020.
While some stakeholders lamented the closure, as it has adversely affected their businesses, others are happy with the closure, calling for it to be closed forever, as the closure has started to boost their sector of the economy.
The Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, was the fired salvo, when the Customs Comptroller General, Col. Hammed Ali, Rtd, gave the reasons for the border closure, in a keynote speech, read on his behalf, by Assistant Comptroller General of Customs, ACG, Kaycee Ekekezie, Zonal Coordinator, Zone ‘A’, Lagos. Co. Hammed Ali stated that, the border was closed, after a long period of trying to get our neighbours to honour the ECOWAS protocol, which came into effect during the former President Olusegun Obasanjo regime, to no avail.
“For clarity, the ECOWAS Protocol, on transit of goods and persons, states that, ‘when a container berths at a seaport, the receiving country is, mandated to escort same, without tampering with the seal, to the border of the destination country and hand same over, to the Customs officials of the destination country’.
Unfortunately, experience has shown that, our neighbours do not comply with this protocol”, Col Hammed Ali, Rtd, stated.
He stated that, rather, they break the seals of containers in transit to Nigeria at their ports and transload the goods on open trucks which belong to them, to the country and transload to trucks that belong to Nigerians.
According to the Customs CG, all these have security and economic implications to the country and we had to do something about it.
“While they are transloading across their place, we don’t know what is in these containers because, they pile them up. You’ll see a truck carrying those goods, very tall”.
Consequently, in order to deal with this situation, the Nigerian Customs Service, the Nigerian Immigration Service, the Armed Forces, as well as, the Nigerian Police, in collaboration with other security and intelligence Agencies, commenced on a joint border security exercise in four geopolitical zones in the country, with the partial closure of the borders on August 20, 2020”, he emphasized.
He noted that measure is aimed at securing our borders, in order to strengthen the economy and address other transborder security concerns.
Some of the gains from the partial border closure, as reeled out by the Customs boss include:
- The stoppage of the smuggling n of foreign rice and other prohibited items into the country
- Impacted positively on the fortunes of the Nigerian rice farmers in terms of patronage
- Revenues collected by the Customs at the Ports has tremendously increased
- NNPC has since reported a 30% drop in fuel consumption, which means that we have been subsidizing fuel for our neighbouring countries consumption.
- On security, the Customs has intercepted arms and ammunition, as well as, made arrests.
Representing Frank Udemba Jacobs, the President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Ambrose Oruche, the Acting DG, stated that the border closure is, affecting its members in varying degrees.
He stated that, from a survey it conducted, the closure has adversely affected some of its members, while it has, positively, affected others.
He concluded by saying that, the government of Nigeria should urgently resolve the issues with our neighbours and open the borders for genuine business community that are suffering to get back to business.
Shakin Agbayewa, the Deputy President of All Farmers Association, Lagos State Chapter, who doubles as Chairman, of Rice Farming project under Lagos State, is of the opinion that the government should close the borders forever, as Nigerian rice farmers are now enjoying patronage from Nigerians.
He stated that the high cost of local rice will soon be addressed, at the end of this years’ planting season, when the price of a 50kg bag of rice is expected to drop to as low as N50,000.
Shakin appealed to the government, to further assist rice farmers in the areas of land clearing, which takes a substantial part of their resources and supply of improved seedlings.
Caleb Omoyiola, a retired Comptroller of Customs, who is currently the Trade Advisor of Borderless Alliance, is of the opinion that, the borders should be opened, for genuine traders, to carry on their businesses across the borders, but the government should check the activities of smugglers, by policing our porous borders with our neighbours.
Posset Didier, the Vice-Consul General of the Republic of Benin, on his part, thanked the LCCI, for organizing the stakeholder’s forum and hoped that, the border closure issues, will be resolved as soon as possible.
Earlier, Gabriel Idahosa, Vice-President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who represented the President of the Chamber, Toki Mabogunje, stated in the Welcome Address that, the LCCI is organizing the stakeholders forum, to assess the impact of the border closure on trade and businesses, as well as, make suggestions and recommendations on the way forward
Muda Yusuf, Director General of LCCI, giving his Vote of Thanks, stated that, all the suggestions and recommendations will be collated and forwarded to the government, for possible implementation, to resolve the lingering border closure.
The forum was attended by stakeholders from the business community, members of the diplomatic corps, the Nigerian Customs Service, etc.
L-R: Caleb Omoyiola, Trade Advisor of Borderless Alliance, Shakin Agbayewa, Deputy President, All Farmers Association, Lagos State Chapter, who doubles as Chairman, Rice Farming project, under Lagos State, ACG, Kaycee Ekekezie, Zonal Coordinator, Zone ‘A’, Nigeria Customs Service, Lagos, who represented Col. Hammed Ali, CG, Nigeria Customs Service, Gabriel Idahosa, Vice-President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, who represented Toki Mabogunje, President, LCCI, Ambrose Oruche, the Acting DG, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, who represented the President of MAN and Posset Didier, the Vice-Consul General of the Republic of Benin, at the Stakeholders Forum on Impacts Of Border Closure On Nigeria’s Economy, organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, at the Commerce House, Idowu Taylor Street, V.I., Lagos, on Tuesday, February 18, 2020
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