In spite of recent assurances that the Nigerian Government may reconsider its closed land border for regional trade to commence again, there are indications the closure may linger on some more time more.
Facts emerging show that neighbouring states directly affected by the closure snubbed intervention by top Nigerian industrialists and manufacturing officials including Aliko Dangote, to sign an undertaking not to support and encourage acts detrimental to the Nigerian economy and internal security.
This is coming on the backdrop of reported noncommittal stance of immediate neighbouring states, Republic of Benin and Togo, who are reported not disposed to signing undertaking that they will not support acts smugglings of imported cheap generic goods targeted for the Nigerian market, allow passage of undocumented migrants with suspicious security motives, and other acts detrimental to the economy and security of Nigeria.
Elite customs broker and immediate past National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu hinted that the FGN is unwilling to succumb to the conspiracy of silent blackmail by neighbouring states to reopen the border without measured realistic benefits as the reasons it was closed in the first place.
Shittu lamented that the neighbouring states which have declined to sign bilateral trade good conduct with Nigeria, also recently snubbed a high powered intervention delegation comprising of manufacturers and their representatives, including Aliko Dangote.
He revealed that the Dangote team is the latest in the series of efforts by Nigeria to discuss the trans border impasse, and blamed Benin and other neighbouring states for attempting to break Nigeria’s resolve riding on unwarranted sentiments by some class of Nigerians.
The business man insists that if these neighbours are treated with kids glove, they would continue to sabotage Nigeria and disrupt the ongoing policy on economic backward integration, as he urged government and Nigerians generally to actively build on the ongoing local production and grow the economy; assuring that the gains far surpass the temporary hardship.
His words: “From what is happening, you will notice that these people have adopted quiet conspiracy and silent diplomatic blackmail intended to force Nigeria to reopen the border without signing good conduct undertaking; so that at the end of the day, the purpose of the whole exercise will be defeated.
“This is very insulting and this may be part of the reasons government is reluctant to reopen the land border. Should Nigeria kowtow to this kind of behaviour? We must put sentiments aside and call these peoples bluff, they need us to survive. They should be made to respect our concerns and not abuse us or take our lax in the past as license to do as they wish, Nigeria should not allow that. As citizens, we need to continue to support government to continue to take decisive steps and to maintain current measures in place to sustain our struggle to grow our economy”
Below is our reporter’s chat with Shittu:
Last year I asked you a question about your take on the closure of the border and you said that you believed that government was doing the right thing. It’s been a year and two months, are those goals and objectives you identified with still intrinsically valid?
Let me answer you in a roundabout way. Dangote and some industrialists came together and met our neighbouring state, Benin Republic to see how the border issue will be resolved. Nigeria cannot be a dumping ground, Dangote and co agreed. But what happened? Benin turned down the intervention.
You mean our neighbouring states refused to endorse an undertaking to check influx of imported items through their territory?
Yes. You know the likes of Dangote are in position to advice government that is why you hear of statements like ‘Government will take a decision soon’. The neighbours have been turning down Nigeria’s demand. They don’t want to give us guarantee that armed bandits will not be passing their country into Nigeria. What is our demand? That your country should not be giving support to smugglings, dumping of foreign goods in Nigeria should not be supported through your country. They said they cannot give guarantee. If you were in President Buhari’s shoes, what will you do? That is why the status quo is been maintained. Nigeria is saying they should put it down in writing so that the agreement can be domiciled in the United Nation, they say no. But their economy is suffering because they rely on Nigeria, and some Nigerians are suffering because that’s the way of their business. Now you need to place it side by side, which one is weightier? It means they cannot guarantee our lives, they don’t mean well for us.
So it’s a dicey situation that seem to support that the sanction should remain
They (neighbouring states) are making it difficult. That it has been like that for a century doesn’t say it must remain so. We need to wake up and take our destiny back, Nigeria has the potential to be a global economic power in terms of production and export capacity. Just imagine that you are in your house and you have a neighbor who is very hostile, despite your virtuous disposition. Okay don’t allow this people pass through my compound, he says no, I cannot guarantee you that they won’t pass through your compound. Then, wouldn’t you erect fence and gate your compound?
It stands to reason
Good, that is what this government is doing. Am not in government but am just looking at it from an objective scale. The population of those suffering based on this border closure, if you compare it with the lives of 200 million Nigerians, it is negligible.
Also speaking, Mr. Sunday Imafidon, a Nigerian engaged in sub regional supply of trade items from Nigeria, urged the FG to adopt international approach to resolving the issue, hinting that the continued closure has sent a number of Nigerians to their grave.
“We are not happy that our neighbours are not responding to demands by Nigeria, we are appealing that the demands should not be too harsh. On the hand we think that if the United Nations and European Nation are involved, maybe they can convince Benin to sign the agreements.
“Some of us supplying vegetables, drinks and juice are suffering; some of us have even died. Government should help us and review some of the demands so that we can move forward. You will notice that smuggling is still going on, smuggling will not stop. Government need to rework our own security system to respond to border crimes, that is how it everywhere, you cannot be asking another country to protect your border or guarantee that criminal foreigners should not come near our border.”