Border Closure: Taking A Toll On ECOWAS Authority Of Heads State and Government Summits

By Elizabeth Chukwuma

 This is not the best of times for the Economic  Community  of West African States, ECOWAS, Authority of Heads of State  and Government, plenary ordinary sessions .This  is because of the the foot dragging of the member countries of the economic bloc, particular the French- speaking countries who appear to be unhappy with president Muhammadu Buhari over the closure of the Borders with the neighbouring Benin republic, Niger and the  central African country of Cameroon as it has adversely affected the free movement of goods and services in the sub-region.  The Authority Of Heads of State  and  Government of the Economic bloc, over the last four months. According to Diplomatic sources, the economic plenary sessions  provide an opportunity for the leaders of the member countries to discuss about the economic problems of the sub-region and the way forward.

With the the  Katsina state  born Nigeria President  closure of  the Borders  with the neighboring countries and  the recent threat  to disconnect Benin, Niger and  Togo, over a $16 million outstanding  power supply debts, many had expected  Presidents  Patrick Talon of Benin Republic, and  Faure Gnassingbe of Togo, to   to team upoufou Mohammadou, President of Niger and Chairman of the Authority, to resolve the problem with Buhari at the summit level in the presence of the other invited  leaders from the sub-region.

The good news was that Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, ADB, Yakubu Gowon,  a retired Army General, and a one-time Nigerian Head of State and incidentally one of the founders of the economic bloc, still alive were at the meeting.

President  may have set the agenda for discussion  at  the  56th plenary ordinary session, when he expressed  the government ‘’ commitment  towards devising new strategies  and initiatives for inclusive  economic growth among the people of the region’’, noting that the greatest problem facing the sub- region for now was terrorism.  He was said into have cited the killing of 70 soldiers by terrorists in Niger.The terrorist may have been hit by Nigeria’s country’s border closure to turn their weapons on the Nigerien soldiers.

The ECOWAS Authorityof Heads of state and Government were said to have taken far reaching decision at the meeting which has to do with the establishment of the ECO common currency for the region and the Continental Free Trade Area, CfTA.

The french speaking countries of Benin, Burkina Faso , Guinea-Bissau, Coted’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo may have read the handwriting on the wall that the era of continued economic attachment is over.

Last saturday, the french- speaking countries which had been reluctant to support the sub-regional common currency expected o come on stream in 2020,agreed to change the name of their currency to ECand also severed the CFA’s links to France, the former colonial master.

The announcement was said to have been at the recent visit of Emmanuel Macron, President of France recent visit to Cote d’Ivoire. Given the decision by the french speaking to severe to se CFA links with France, they were said to have agreed to stop keeping 50 percent and the ”withdrawal of French governance in the country’s treasuryof their reserves related to the new currency” in any aspect and the withdrawal of French governance

The coming on steam of the ECO and CfTA, is next year is instructive because of the continued Border closure with the neighbouring countries. of Benin, Niger and Cameroon, which had turned their countries as dumping ground for the Asian anand European countries manufactured goods and agricultural products, particular, the Thai produced par boiled rice, which were smuggled into the country through unapproved routes. The french -speaking countries may have known that continued atatchment to France would not help their case as they do not have the market compared to Nigeria and the other English-speaking countries.

Mohammad Sanusi, a former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and now Emir of Kano may have called the bluff of Talon, the Benin Repblic President when he said the continued Border closure would protect the country’s productive sector. He is right. At present, the country’s rice could now be found in the market , though at at a very exorbitant price per”50” bag, an indication that the government has to intervene to force down the price.

Only recently, the Adamawa/Taraba Command Enforcement  officers with the support of other security  operatives  raided the Mubi market, a Commercial hub of Adamawa state . Its proximity to with Cameroon ma was said to have made it a centre of  smuggling activities. The Customs Command Enforcement officers were said to have raided the market  in  search of foreign rice and other Contraband goods.

Issoufou Mummadou: Niger President

  Hundreds of ‘’50’’ bags of rice were said to were said to have been evacuated from many shops from the  Adamawa state Commercial hub centre. The big –time foreign rice distributors in the Border Community  who were said to have  gotten an insider information about the planned operation , were said to have locked up their shops and watched the operation from the sideline.

Kamardeen Olumoh,  the Area comptroller said  the raid on the Mubi market  was at the instance  of the Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General , Nigerian Customs Service, NCS,  to ‘’mop up  all smuggled  items  from the country, particular, foreign rice’’.

 Business analysts believe  that what Comptroller Olumoh had done at the Mubi  market may  not be different  from what Muhammed Uba Garba, Comptroller , Seme Command, has been doing  at the Seme Border Community  market and surrounding bush at intervals   where  hundreds of ‘’50’’ bags  of foreign rice had been impounded  and transferred to the Government warehouse.

 The seizures made at the different raids , were said to have formed   part of the  over 28,000 ‘’50’’ bags of rice  reported to have been made by the Command between January and November , 2019.Meanwhile, Babagano Munguno, a retired Army Major general and National Security Adviser, NSA may have dampened the enthusiasm of Nigerians about reopening the Borders with the neighbouring  countries anytime soon.  

Munguno, who is the Chairman , of the on-going Border Drills , ordered  by   the President last August   was said to have  told those that  cares  to listen that the Borders would  remain closed till the objectives of  ‘’freeing the country from criminal activities, smuggling  as well as enhance  the economy  are achieved’’.

Appealing to the neighbouring countries for  their  Collaboration and Cooperation, to ensure the smooth operation of the Border Drills exercise which was also aimed at securing  the country’s state of livelihood, he noted that the issue of the country’s porous Borders  with the  neighbouring  countries gave  room,  for the smugglers to carry out the nefarious activities of smuggling foreign par boiled rice and other Contraband goods into the country.

 Security watchers believe that the only thing  that Talon, the President Of Benin , could do to actually  convince his Nigerian counterpart that he is ready to  Collaborate and Cooperate with him on the Border Drills exercise   would be to eitherto  collect the revenue from such Contraband goods  imports, particular, foreign rice the rice   and turn  it in to the Nigerian government  for destruction.  This may be a hard decision for Talon, the Beninese President  to  take  as the country rely heavily on informal trade for its revenue generation.

 There is no gain saying the fact that Talon  would rather support the informal trade than join the  Nigerian government  to fight the smugglers in order to sustain the revenue generation of the country  to be able able provide  basic infrastructural facilities  for the  people.

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