By Stephen Ubanna
The on-going Border drills, which had resulted into the partial border closure with neighboring countries of Republic of Benin, Niger, Tchad and the Central African country of Cameroon, regarded in Customs circles, as parasitic countries, appears, to have had a sweeping economic effect on all the members of the West and Central African sub-regions.
This may have forced Nana kufo-Addo, the President of Ghana, the President of Ghana , , whose country is also being affected by the border closure, over the sale of the country’s manufactured goods, particular, fabrics and Pharmaceutical products in the Nigerian market to intervene to save the situation from getting worse.
At the instance, of Akufo-Addo, the Ghanaian President, Shrley Botchwey, the country’s Foreign Affairs and Integration minister, was in Nigeria on Thursday, October 16, 2019, to rub minds with Geoffrey Onyeama, his Nigerian counterpart. Given the importance attached to the visit by the Ghanaian President, was aid to have given approval Kyerematen, the minister of Trade and Industry to accompany the Foreign minister and Integration.
They were said to have been given audience by Onyeama, who made it clear to them that ‘’ that the country has no ulterior motive to cripple the economy of any country in the region but to stop the criminal activities going on across the borders where Nigeria has been turned as a dumping ground for prohibited goods, particular, , foreign rice, small arms and weapons and foreign manufactured goods that are on the ECOWAS Trade Protocol.
Note that Ghanaians are left out in the Criminal activities at the border area with their Nigerian Collaborators. This is because virtually all the smuggled parcels of Cavanabis Sativa, popular, Indian Hemp, which are grown in the West African country but exported to other African countries, particular, Nigeria, had been intercepted at several times by the patrol teams of the Seme Command , of the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, under the close watch of Muhammed Ubah Garba, the Area Comptroller . There was an incident of 1,582 parcels of the dangerous drug, concealed in an Indomie truck and another notable interception of 55 parcels concealed in a Sienna bus, all traced to Ghana. Valuation experts put the value of the locally produced weed turned drugs at over N30 million.
Indeed, the Ghanaian ministers may have left Nigeria fulfilled that their mission was not in vain as Onyeama, the nation’s Foreign Affairs minister, who may have spoken the mind of President Muhammadu Buhari, had assured them that the borders would be opened as soon as possible if the member countries of the ECOWAS, subregion, particular, Benin, Niger and Tchad, which are the closest neigbours are ready to observe the trade protocol. to ensure that the free movement of persons , goods and services will continue.
Security watchers believe that Onyema, the Nigerian Foreign minister, may have informed his Ghanaian counterparts that the borders would be opened for free movement of persons, goods and services to continue , to keep their mind at rest . This is because he knows that Buhari, the country’s President , would not go back on his words until Patrick Talon of Benin, Mohammad Isoufou, Niger, Idris Derby, Tchad and Paul Biya of Cameroon, address the trade issues raised which over the years had been abused by the countries with impunity.
The ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme, ETLS, protocol, had listed the kind of goods that should enter and exit Nigeria borders which are manufactured within the region. They are Lime, Emulsion paint, Floor paint, Billets, laminated steel, Tiles, Biscuits, Beer,Stout, Insecticides, Limestones, Fongicides, , Non Cocoa based Confectionary, Matresses,Foam, Refrigerators, Air Conditioners, Matches, Pastic bags, Hides or leather, Natural leader shoes and Synthetic leather shoes.
This is in addition to kitchen utensils, , Bleach , Vinegar, , Flat Shheets, , Loure Frames,, Glass, Blade, Aluminium Loure blades, , Oega OIL, Hair dye, Hair link, Nails,Bic Ball pens, Crude Palm OIL, Tuna Flakes in Oil, Embroider Laces, Medicated soap, Paint, Dulux Emusion, Permoble Car paint, Dulux Gloss, Tomato Puree,, Exhaust pipe, Silencer, Toth pates, Confectionary.
Also included on the trade protocol are Pharmaceuticals, soaps, detergent, refined vegetable oil, , Aluminium doors, Galvanised buckets, palm oi, Glycerine, Corrugated sheets, Aluminium circles, Soft drinks,, pilchards, Glass Containers, Crumb rubber, Plastic material, ponded Yam, and Cement.
Investigation by The Value News shows that over 30 items including approved for sales in the ECOWAS sub-reginal market and the Companies manufacturing them are located in Nigeria and about 40 of such items in Ghana. The French speaking countries of Republic of Benin, Niger and Tchad, may have found their countries to be at a disadvantage compared to Nigerian , which has the market , because of its of about 200 million, as their combined manufactured goods for sale in the sub-region was just about 10 items.
They are lime, Emulsion paint and floor paint, which are manufactured in Niger, with the registered Companies, non cocoa based confectionary, Mattresses, Foam, Refrigerators, Air Conditioners ,Matches, Galvanised buckets manufactured in Benin. These may have encouraged Benin to allow the land –locked countries of Niger and Tchad, to o use their harbours to import their transit cargoes . Note that past and present government of Benin had opened up the country’s economy for China and India manufacturers to flood Benin terminal, Cotonou and Bollore port, the country’s major two ports, with their manufactured goods.
Customs sources, told The Magazine that some of these foreign manufactured goods which are pushed into the Benin, Niger and Tchadian, markets, from the Asian country of China, were also manufactured by Companies in Nigeria or Ghana, which had been recognized in the ECOWAS Trade protocol to be sold in the sub-region. The Liberal fiscal policy of the French speaking countries appears to have made nonsense of the ECOWAS trade protocol.
Recall that when Nigeria and Republic of Benin , finally agreed to join the African Continental Area, AfCTA , last July which was capped with the Katsina born Nigerian President and Talon, his Beninese counterpart , signing the Agreement on the sidelines, he had expressed his fears that it might be abused if the right fiscal policies are not put in place by African countries.
Zainab Ahmed, minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, was emphatic: there would be tremendous opportunities for Nigeria on the Medium term but noted that it will create a nightmare situation for the country unless the right policies and actions are implemented expeditiously to improve the nation’s economic Competitiveness. Aliko Dangote, the President Dangote Group, MAN and Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry had supported the government decision to AfCTA but cautioned that adequate measure must be put in place to prevent Nigeria from being turned into dumping ground for foreign goods. Dangote, who could not hide his feelings had queried the rationale behind the formation of regional economic blocs, if trade barriers still exist among African countries. The Dangote Group, efforts to export its manufactured cement to other African countries including Benin, was said to have been frustrated because of the difficulties the company go through in exporting its products to neighbouring African countries.
Many believe that the French speaking countries, which border Nigeria both in the north and south, may have opened their economies to the Asian countries of China and India manufacturers to flood their market with such goods which are manufactured within the subregion and registered in the ECOWAS trade protocol for sales in the sub-region ostensibly to cripple the Nigerian manufacturers from penetrating the regional market.
There is no gain saying the fact that Benin, Niger and Tchad, knew that thy do not have the market and or the economic power to consume the imported items into their countries, but to open their countries as a base for smugglers to use to carry out their nefarious activities.
There are indications that many Nigerian Companies, which goods could not compete with the Chinese manufactured products because of the relative cheap price have been forced to close down, throwing many people into the unemployment market.
At present, virtually all the industrial Estates in Lagos and Agbara, in Ogun state, are awash with closed down factories and their workers asked to go home until such a time the Companies would resume production again.
The Katsina born Nigerian President who respects the trade protocol of the regional body may not have found this funny that companies operating in Nigeria are closing down or relocating to Ghana or Cote d’Ivore to manufacture for the Nigerian market.
MAN had reported that that in 2017 alone,, about 272 Companies had closed down production, across the country while some had reduced their production . The Association further disclosed that more than half of the surviving Companies could best be described as ailing, thus posing a threat to the country’s manufacturing sector.
Recall that in 2009,the Association had raised alarm that 820, Small and Medium Scale, SMEs Industries , had closed down, for then President Goodluck Jonthan to do something urgent , to force the member countries of the ECOWAS sub-region to respect the ETLS protocol. The situation was made worse as Thai farmers found Nigeria as a new market to sell their Parboiled rice which are imported through Republic of Benin ports and smuggled into the country through unapproved routes.
Now , the government , through its Agricultural policies, has encouraged may Nigerians , including Companies to go into rice production, to force the Thai par boiled out of the Nigerian market. Benin, which is generating generous revenue from re-exporting the Thai parboiled to Niger and Tchad, appears to have resisted the government efforts to stop the importation of the foreign rice , which is never consumed in their country but smuggled into the Nigerian market. Perhaps, this may have informed the reason why Buhari and top government functionaries, including Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, NCS, has made it clear, that unless the neighbouring countries are ready to respect the ECOWAS trade protocols, the borders would remain closed.
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