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‘Non-oil export at stake over continued border closure’

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Seme border post. PHOTO: SULAIMON SALAU

– Operators record weekly loss of $1m over action
– ‘Government agencies at borders have not lived up to their mandates’

Members of the Organised Private Sector (OPS), including manufacturers and the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), have decried continued closure of the nation’s border for a drill, citing that goods meant for export to other regional markets were trapped on the corridor.

For instance, some members of the food, beverage and tobacco sub-sector of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, who are involved in export, decried the continued stance of the Federal Government on border closure.

With a minimum of five trucks from each of the manufacturers stuck at either side of the border, the operators lamented the weekly loss of at least $1million from the export business per operator.

President Muhammadu Buhari had said that the Seme border was a major rice smuggling artery which prompted the federal government to decide to shut it down.

Buhari during his meeting with Beninois counterpart, Patrice Talon, at the Seventh Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD7), holding in Yokohama, Japan, said the border was a major smuggling route for banned items into Nigeria.

The LCCI in its reaction stated that the government ought to be more strategic and tactical in dealing with problems of this nature.

LCCI Director-General, Muda Yusuf said: “The border closure is a simplistic solution to a complicated, broader and multidimensional problem. We should develop the culture of tackling the causes of problems, not fighting the symptoms. This is the way to solve a problem sustainably.

“One of the critical challenges we face as a nation is that of weak state institutions. This is what has manifested in the escalation of the phenomenon of smuggling. It is regrettable that innocent citizens that are struggling to make a living are now being made to pay the price for lapses of ineffectual institutions of the state.

“The truth is that government agencies at our borders have not lived up to their mandates. It is impossible for the scale of smuggling being reported to take place without the connivance of state officials at the borders. The starting point in dealing with this problem is to get the state institutions to do their job.

“Border closure does not offer a sustainable solution. It only penalizes small players in the informal sector. It also disrupts the supply chains and exports transactions of many big firms that do business across the sub-region. The cost of this closure to businesses is evidently phenomenal and would be in billions of naira. It also has implications for the confidence of investors as well”.

Yusuf urged the government to strengthen the capacity of state institutions at the borders, by deploying greater use of technology in tackling the problem.

“Scanners at the nation’s borders and seaports have not functioned for over a year. We should deploy drone technology and strengthen intelligence. Above all, we need to deal with people’s issues. The system should hold relevant institutions and their leaders accountable for lapses in the discharge of their duties”, he added.


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