Nigeria's Border Closure: Much Ado About Nothing
In August this year the Nigerian government in Abuja shut our borders without notice and this drew a gale of criticisms from the Nigerian public and her West African neighbours.
The former which have been profiting from our porous borders viewed this action as a blatant violation or breach of the African Free Trade Agreement considering the bitter reactions by trade unions in the former Gold Coast threatening retaliation.
They may have lost sight of the fact that Nigeria as a sovereign nation is free to formulate and implement her own economic policies to benefit its citizenry.
Thus, there is every compelling need under the existing circumstances for the Federal Government to promote and boost domestic production of good and services via imposition of taxes, border closure and the like to limit the influx of foreign goods and services into the Nigerian market especially when such goods and services could be produced locally. There is no denying the fact anything to the contrary is tantamount to economic suicide which the Federal Government has taken stringent measures to avert. The Buhari-led Federal Government deserves a pat on the back for this.
However, it is no news before the closure that Nigeria had lost billions of dollars in taxes and duties to the activities of smugglers and her neighbours.
These countries and their governments have been leeches feeding off Nigeria to the detriment of our economy and the best we get is treating our people in their countries with disdain, unwarranted and unprovoked attacks on their businesses which the successive Nigerian government overlooked for years.
The President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government action after years is belated after years of porosity of our national borders considering the irreparable damage it has influcted on Nigeria in terms of huge loss of revenue, insecurity and otherwise.
Some naysayers would be apt to say palliative measures would have been put in place before the sudden closure without considering what we stand to benefit in the long run.
Today, the closure is yielding the desired dividends as rate of output is beginning to change.
We cannot allow how and what our neighbours feel about our economic policies to override our national interest.
Ghana Trade Unions recently threatened fire and brimstone by vowing to boycott Made-In-Nigeria goods if the Federal Government does not reopen our borders.
After reading a recent news report on the Vanguard where the threat was allegedly made by the abovementioned Trade Unions I laughed in Swahili and had no option but to dismiss it with a trivial hand because Ghana with less than 18 million people whose economy is below that of Lagos State, a subnational unit that make up the Federation of Nigeria cannot dictate to us and would only be raising the Biblical Cain by commencing trade war with Nigeria.
Ghana needs Nigeria more than we ever and would ever need her all things considered.
To what we stand to gain by this border closure and economic protectionism we must now turn.
The advantages of this border closure if we need reminding far outweigh the disadvantages.
For starters, the border closure will drive more growth opportunities of which our local industries urgently stand in need. This growth will continue ad infinitum to put our industries on a par with other experienced firms and industries in the international market.
This is economic protectionism - an effective antidote to the great depression in post World War11 Europe.
It needs no gainsaying that consumers will be hard hit initially seeing that we would first need to pay more for substandard products calling attention to "the Buhari rice".
Be that as it may, President Buhari deserves some accolades for taking this decisive action to drive Nigeria's economic growth.
However, the ban or stoppage of foreign rice imports into Nigeria through our hitherto porous borders will bring about higher employment rates, reduce imports and the high import bills which often deplete our foreign reserves.
I have it on good authority that Nigeria would be saving no fewer than $30 billion annually resulting from this border closure which will also bring about rise in domestic production thereby leading to trade balance.
These economic measures in other words protectionist policies no matter whose ox is gored have long been overdue to revamp our ailing economy.
However, we are not unaware that consumers' choice will be limited as access to a wide variety of goods and services would be denied in the market due to limitations on foreign goods.
Although the Buhari-administration has taken the right step in the right direction, what agitates this writer is the judicious use of the money that would be realized yearly which is put at a whooping $30 billion considering the fact we live in a country with a dearth of service infrastructures.
In my recent visit to Edo State and consultations with different political stakeholders across the state I was forced to alight from my convoy with my entourage and security details to navigate our way on foot through the failed section at the Ehor axis of the ever-busy Benin-Auchi expressway. That things would ever change for the better in this regard with the present crop of men at the helm is in the lap of the gods.
All in all, a PPN-controlled Federal Government under the dynamic leadership of our boss and principal, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, a detribalized Nigerian, a man who could never be swayed by normative ethnic manoeuvres is who we urgently stand in need of whose vision for Nigeria remains the only antidote to Nigeria's grossly inadequate, ineffective and unfocused leadership models.
Iyoha John Darlington is Edo State Governorship Candidate, Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN)