The Oasis Reporters
October 17, 2019
In 1984, the General Muhammadu Buhari led military junta unilaterally closed Nigeria’s international land borders against all our Limitrophe neighbours in ECOWAS and ECCAS (Economic Community of Central African States).
At the time, we even had treaty obligations to allow access to our coastal ports for their external trade to landlocked Niger and Chad, but the Junta was not bothered by niceties or such diplomatic and treaty obligations.
Those of us who lived through that period recall the poverty, hunger, despair, the disappearance of goods from the markets and supermarket shelves, the essential commodities queues, the market raids by soldiers to “liberate” goods not being sold at government fixed prices etc.
It took the ouster of that administration for our borders to be reopened on March 1, 1986 by the successor IBB led military junta.
A Nigerian who has invested in local rice milling,insists that closing our borders is what we need right now for our local production capacity to grow, otherwise it will be suffocated by “dumping” from smugglers.
The reality has always remained that smuggling can only be attractive when there is a shortfall in supply, and even more attractive when there is a significant price differential between the local goods and the same products (or close substitutes) across the border.
If Nigeria does not address local supply and the raison d’être locally manufactured or produced goods are much more expensive than the ones smuggled in from across our borders, the price of local products and close substitutes will simply be pushed up by a significantly increased local demand that cannot even be met.
Juxtapose this with the purchasing power (or lack of it) of the 94.47 million Nigerians who, according to the world poverty clock, are currently living in multidimensional poverty.
Add the fact that 4.5 Nigerians slip into poverty every single minute, then it would be an agreed fact that this border closure is a terrible mistake that will cost the nation dearly.
An approach that failed miserably for the 2 years it lasted between 1984 and March 1986, why do we think it will work now?
What has changed?
Written by Dr. Jekwu Ozoemene .
One time Managing Director, Access Bank (Zambia) Ltd.