The Oasis Reporters
December 20, 2020
Less than a week to Christmas, Mr. Ejeh’s family bought half a bag of high grade long grain premium imported rice for 14,000 naira, which makes the commodity much loved by Nigerians as food for both festive and everyday occasions, 28,000naira per 50kg bag in Ibadan, capital city of Oyo State in South West Nigeria. Across the border in Cotonou, Benin Republic, a bag of rice goes for 15,000 naira anyway.
In the aftermath of the EndSARS crisis that saw the killings of youthful peaceful protesters and the retaliations by a section of the citizenry leading to the abandonment of checkpoints, smugglers had a field day, filling their underground warehouses with imported rice hoping to make a kill with Christmas bumper sales.
But President Muhammadu Buhari’s announcement about throwing open the nation’s land borders that were shut in August 2019 has thrown rice hoarders into panic mode. Rice that was going for between 38,000 to 40,000 naira in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State has dramatically fallen to 28,000 in Ibadan. That’s primarily out of fear of what the open borders might spring for their trade.
The Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari had cited smuggling as one of the major reasons for taking the action but said the closure of the border had yielded results.
Former Senator Shehu Sani tweeted that
the closure of Nigeria’s borders made no impact in containing banditry and insurgency. It only unleashed hardships and sufferings on the border communities.
“It was all about Rice and Rice; and we are still neither a major Rice producer nor exporter of the commodity”‘, that has become staple to the palates of the citizenry.
The Closure of Our Country’s borders made no impact in containing banditry and https://t.co/kmpJiW1tzT only unleashed hardships and sufferings on the border https://t.co/YROFVmXZit was all about Rice and Rice;and we are still neither a major Rice producer nor exporter.— Senator Shehu Sani (@ShehuSani) December 8, 2020
Meanwhile, four border points have been opened with Seme border post opened in Southern Nigeria with Benin Republic, the Mfum crossing with Cameroon while two are opened in the north at Maigatari in Jigawa State and Illela in Sokoto State, all bordering Niger Republic since December 16, 2020 with plans to reopen the remaining crossings December 31, 2020.
International land freight and passenger transport disruptions are possible until all of the nation’s crossings reopen and cross-border traffic normalizes.
While Nigeria’s second largest Port, Tin Can Island port is quoted as experiencing a 70 percent under utilization, the Seme Port in the tiny French speaking neighboring Republic of Benin is having an unprecedented boom, yet 85 percent or more of the imports into Benin Republic are meant for the Nigerian market. Hundreds of thousands of Nigerian traders have a chronic aversion to Nigerian ports due to the alleged high-handedness of the Country’s port officials and the alleged penchant to demand for huge and “fantastically corrupt” bribes.
Government policies also chase Nigerian importers to neighboring countries. They then snuggle their goods through unauthorized paths into the country, a system that can change, if Infrastructural facilities were in place and in standard conditions to enable production of goods within the country, and discourage importation, or make Nigerian made goods in the country, more competitive.
Areas hit hardest with the 16 month border closure remains the southern states, where even West African countries especially Ghana, Benin Republic, Togo etc depend on for trade.
This is one of the key factors that propelled Ghana into preventing Nigerian businesses from reopening their shops as well as imposing prohibitive tariff because Ghanaian business men and women can’t move freely to Nigeria to restock their shops and carry on their businesses with the biggest market in the sub region.
Meanwhile, a 50kg bag of rice is 15,000 naira in Cotonou, Benin Republic, while it costs almost 40,000 naira in Nigeria where domestic production is being hampered by the killings of scores of rice farmers in Nigeria’s north eastern state of Borno by Boko Haram Islamist terrorists.
Nigeria’s minimum wage can not buy a bag of rice for a family, amid the country’s 2nd recession in five years with it’s attendant runaway inflation.