THE NIGERIAN BORDER CLOSURE POLICY; A MOVE TO CHECK THE INFLUX OF SUBSTANDARD GOODS IN THE NIGERIAN MARKETS

INTRODUCTION

A border is the territorial jurisdiction of a particular state or country which it exercises sovereignty over. States around the world run an open or closed border system depending on any international treaty which it may have rectified or their economic capacity.

This work considers in details, the introduction of the closed border policy in Nigeria, how this has checked the influx of sub-standard goods in the country. It also considers the economic status of the Nigerian nation prior to the adoption of the policy, critically examines the successes of the policy and makes further recommendations for the effective implementation of the policy.

THE NIGERIAN STATE PRIOR TO THE CLOSED BORDER POLICY

Prior to the adoption of the closed border policy, Nigeria operated an open border system which encouraged free trade among border nations. In line with the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) which aims at free trade movement within West African states, traders were reasonably allowed to transport their goods on land within the country’s borders without strict checks and imposition of tariffs. Furthermore, in July 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA), with similar goals as the ETLS. The import of these treaties was a show of the commitment of the Nigerian state towards international and continental development amongst African States.

However, it is important to note that these treaties have neither been ratified nor domesticated by the Nigerian state pursuant to the provisions of Section 12 CFRN, 1999.

THE NIGERIAN CLOSED BORDER POLICY

On the 20th day of August, 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari by an official press release ordered a partial closure of the land border due to massive smuggling activities especially in rice. According to the National Statistics Institute, in 2017, Cameroon imported 728,443 metric tons of rice against a population of about 24 million. Niger imported rice worth $53.9 million, about 135 metric tons of rice for a population of 21 million. The same year, Nigeria imported 1.3 million metric tons of rice for a population of over 190 million people, which was evidently insufficient for its population. Thus, most of the rice imported into border nations was illegally exported through the land borders into the Nigerian territory.

Accordingly, the policy was adopted by the Nigerian government in the interest of national development and economic growth in line with the provisions of Section 14(2) (b) and 19(a) CFRN, 1999. In order to achieve this, the implementation of the policy was geared towards checking the influx of substandard goods, particularly rice products into the Nigerian markets.

THE INFLUX OF SUB-STANDARD GOODS IN NIGERIA

Statistics show that agricultural products like rice are mostly smuggled in large quantities from Benin Republic into Nigeria. The former, with a population of less than 12 million people ranks as one of the major importers of rice in the continent. However, its consumer capacity cannot support the quantity imported. Thus most of the rice imported from Asia into Benin Republic was smuggled into Nigeria through the open and unchecked borders of the nation. The Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) in 2018 reported that N1.45 trillion worth of goods was smuggled into Nigeria annually from Benin Republic. Also, in mid-2018, the Nigeria Customs Service recorded a total seizure of 124,407 bags of rice along the Benin Republic-Nigeria borders.

It is important to note that these smuggled bags of rice were not just illegal but were also of sub-standard quality. Accordingly, the Nigerian Governors forum, in 2017, repeatedly lodged complaints with the Federal Government with regards to the quality of imported rice in the Nigerian markets. According to them, it was found that these bags of rice were either rejected in their countries or had overstayed in warehouses before being smuggled into Nigeria.

Furthermore, the open border system encouraged the importation of products specifically banned and its use criminalized in Nigeria. Products such as used cars, vegetable oil, beer, clothes and apparels, drugs, canned food, poultry meat, ammunition were incessantly smuggled through these open borders.

IMPROVEMENTS IN THE NIGERIAN ECONOMY SINCE THE ADOPTION OF THE BORDER CLOSURE POLICY

According to the Global Food Security in a review published on March, 2020, prior to the adoption of the closed border policy in Nigeria, the demand for locally produced rice over imported rice, on a scale of 10 was on a ratio of 2:8. However, since the adoption of the policy in 2019, rice production in Nigeria has grown fast, pushed by the rapid growth in the demand for locally produced rice.

There has also been an increase in job opportunities, massive manufacture and sale of domestic commodities, an increase in federal revenue from legally imported goods, a reasonable reduction in rate of fuel subsidy, reductions in the rate of smuggled commodities, and a check on the influx of substandard goods in Nigeria. Furthermore, the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2019, noted that more mills have been continually set up by domestic businesses in Nigeria. The CBN Governor in a press release in the same year stated that he has received reports regarding the growth in demand for locally produced rice and the purchase of same.

In addition, there has also been a 20% decrease in the rate of fuel subsidy since the implementation of the policy. The reports of insurgency and smuggling of weapons, cars, hard drugs and beer has also drastically reduced. Accordingly, there is clear evidence of improvements in the state of the Nigerian economy since the implementation of the border closure policy.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

One of the primary duties owed by every government to its citizens is to ensure that the welfare, health and economic growth of these citizens are guaranteed. Hence, the partial closure of the Nigerian land borders in August, 2019 for the reasons earlier stated has not only checked the influx of sub-standard goods into the Nigerian markets but has in effect, resulted in a protection of the core values of the Nigerian state, and a prioritization of national development and the welfare of the citizens.

Based on the foregoing, it is strongly recommended that the partial closure of the Nigerian land border is made permanent, and that Laws are enacted to stringently punish persons found to be in violation of this policy. It is also recommended that in line with Article 42(1) Revised ECOWAS Treaty 1975, the government reports the dumping activities carried out by its border nations within its territories.

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