By Stephen Ubanna
When the Authority of Heads of States and Government, of the Economic Community Of WEST African States, ECOWAS, set up the President Marc Roch Christian Kabore, , of Burkina Faso, Tripartite Committee, which had members drawn from Nigeria, Benin Republic and Niger,’’to study and make a full report on the country’s border closure whch had affected the economic activities in the entire West African Sub-region particular, Benin and Niger, President Muhammadu Buhari, had promised to implement the Committee’s full report that may be approved by the Commission. Highest decision making body.
The Value News was informed that Mohammadou Issofou, President Of Niger, and outgoing Chairman, ECOWAS, Authority of Heads of States and Government, had repeatedly drummed to the ear s of the Nigeian President, both officially and during a private visit to Daura, his hometown, to see him while Observing a Public Holiday, to ensure that he keeps to the promise to reopen the closed borders once the Kabore Committee report is approved .
The border closure had disrupted the free movement of goods and services between the member countries of the economic bloc. Nnana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana, who had been speculated in several circles to be a the next Chairman, of the Commission’s Authority of Heads of State and Government, who had repeatedly appealed to the Nigerian President including visiting the country to plead with him to reopen the closed borders with the neighbouring countries of Benin and Niger is expected to continue from where Issofou, had stopped.
The Katsina state born Nigerian President may have soft pedaled on the border closure as he had assured Bashir Mamman Ifo, the President of the ECOWAS Bank For Investment and Development, EBID, and his successor, the Ghanaian born George Nana Donkor, when he had audience with them at the Presidential Villa, last March, that he will ’’implement the Commission Tripartite Committee report on the border closure without hesitation’’.
He had told the duo that though the border closure had given the country a number of insights that ‘’we do not need to import Foreign rice from Thailand or any other foreign country, stating, that the country had achieved food security as it had saved millions of the United States dollar , which could have been spent on such imports.
He may have shocked Ifo, the EBID, President and Donkor, his successor, when he said that the border closure had curtailed the importation of drugs and the proliferation of small and light arms into the country and thus, reduced BokoHaram activities in the north east states of Adamawa, Borno, Yobe. He noted that banditry in the north west states of Zamfara, Kaduna, Sokoto, and Katsina, his home state ad reduce also but that was how far he could go.
Investigations by The Magazine shows that since information leaked out that the Kabore’s Committee had submitted its report to the Commission which would be considered at its next meeting to usher in Akufo-Addo, the Ghanaian President to replace Issofou, the President of Niger, as Chairman , of the Commission, there had been pressure from both within, and outside the country, particular, the local Companies that were registered for the Economic Trade Liberalisation Scheme, ETLS. There are indications that the pressure was coming more from the Dangote Industries, which has Aliko Dangote as its president , and Abdul Samad Rabiu, Chairman, BUA Group, as most of their ETLS manufactured goods, particular, Cement and other Cnsumables, worth billions of dollar had expired in their warehouse over the last two years as it could not get to their destinations due to the bordr closure..
The duo, who are Kano state born multi-billionaires, may have won the heart of the Daura born politician with the persistent pressure on him to reconsider his decision to still close the borders across the country.
Only recently there were reports making the rounds that Dangote and BUA truck laden ETLS goods were allowed to cross the border to enter Benin Republic and Niger on orders on the orders of Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS,, to and Babagana, Munguno, a retired Major General and National Security Adviser, NSA.
The duo had been given the mandate by the Nigerian President to oversee the Border Drills, which had become a lame dock in the recent time ,to Compliment the efforts of the Federal Operations Units, FOUs, and The Comptroller General of Customs, CGC Strike Force including the land Border Area Commands spread across the country in the anti-smuggling drive to ensure that nothing enters or leaves the country.
The Buhari led All Progressive Congress, APC, government may have been forced to have a rethink on the border closure because of the country’s sluggish economic growth, accelerating inflation and weak revenue collection by the revenue generating agencies, particular, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation , NNPC and the Ali, ledNCS, as well as the Federal Island Revenue Services, FIRS.
A recent report of the National Bureau of Statistics, on the economy speaks volume. The Bureau may have raised an alarm when it said that the annual inflation rate of the country hit 11.61 % in October , from the peak 11.24 % in September, marking the highest rate of inflation in the country in the last 17 months. The agency had cited the accelerating increase in food prices which were said to have been caused by the imposition of the trade restrictions with Benin Republic and Niger.
It is on record that Nigeria closed its borders with Benin, Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon, in August 2018 to fight against smuggling of Foreign par boiled rice into the country in order to protect local rice farmers, and ensure the country’s self-sufficiency in food production. It was aimed at curtailing the smuggling of small and light arms into the country..
Many believe that the Nigerian President decision to take a second look on the border closure across the country by agreeing to implement the Kabore’s Committee report , may have been informed with the country signing of the AFRICAN Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCTA, at the African Union meeting In Niger, last year, as the 53 member while Benin Republic signed as the 54 member of the Continental Economic bloc. The Nigeria government which may not want to be a KILler of the African dream which first step requires members to cut the tariff for goods within the economic bloc by 2021.
Financial analysts are optimistic that the country has a lot to benefit from the increasing access to its goods and services to the wider African market. The country, according to informed sources in the ministry of Trade, Investment and Industry, has over 2, 400 Companies under the ECOWAS ETLS. The source disclosed that the country alone, accounts for 60-70% of the 6,900 p products registered under the scheme.
Dangote Industries and the BUA Group which produce a wide range of products and other local Companies including the Breweries which had gained foothold on The West African Sub-region with their ETLS goods are expected to make an appreciable impact on the wider African wider market, by pushing their products into the Continental economic bloc market.
The AfCFTA, according to a ministry of Foreign Affairs source, aims to unite the 1.3 billion in the African Continent by creating a $3.4 billion economic bloc that could usher in a new era of development within the member countries.
Although, Nigeria was one of the last countries to commit to the AfCTA deal, THE Nigerian President wants the member nations to band together to attract investment, grow local manufacturing and combat smuggling activities, across the African countries porous borders.