The AfCFTA and the Nigerian Closed Borders

The AfCFTA and the Nigerian Closed Borders

After months of partial experimental closure of Nigerian land borders, the Nigerian Government has decided to close them totally. The decision to shut the borders completely came after the Nigerian Custom Services claimed it is generating more revenue from the seaports as a result of the closure.

In a recent meeting with the National Assembly’s Committee on Finance and National Planning, the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Custom Service, Hammed Ali, praised the initiative. He said that it has opened an unexpected economic door to Nigeria.

“There was a day in September that we collected N9.2 billion… it has never happened before.” He said.

The Minister of State Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, also indicated that there has been a significant drop of eight million liters in fuel consumption. An evidence of immense smuggling of petroleum products aided by Nigerian security personnel.

The entry of rice, cars, chicken products and so many other goods and services that originate from neighboring African countries have also reduced drastically.

It is based on these developments that the Nigerian Government has vowed to keep the borders closed until the neighbors get their acts together: Mainly, quelling the lax that has enabled smuggling of contraband goods into Nigeria and petroleum products out of Nigeria.

To keep the momentum that has yielded such a result, the Federal Government of Nigeria has commissioned a joint task force comprising customs, immigration, police and the military to keep unrelenting check on the borders.

However, the decision of the Nigerian Government to shut the borders has come against Ecowas rules of integration and the free movement of goods and services within the region. And the implication goes beyond breaking the rules to hurt the export of local products of Nigerian origin.

Scrap copper, tanned goat hides, cocoa butter, rubber etc. Most of these goods produced in the North, East and Western Nigeria make their way to other African countries through land borders – each contributing a huge sum to the GDP.

According to the Nigerian Government, the exports have to be done through the waters until further notice. It’s a development that the local producers of these goods are not accustomed to or ready to take on now. Because the cost is far higher and will result in increment of the export products which will negatively impact the trade.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), signed by Nigeria in July has also been totally breached. The integration and free trade agreement have been jeopardized by the border closure. It has also instigated retaliatory responses from neighboring African countries with Niger Republic threatening to shut her doors against Nigerian goods.

While Nigerian Government is celebrating it as a win, experts are decrying the impacts and the precedent that it is setting: “It is a clear violation of international trade policy that will bring economic woes than remedy.” They said.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) just announced an increment in inflation; from 11.02% to 11.24%, a development that experts attributed to the border closure. There has been a notable hike in the price of food items; the  Nigerian people will have to add to their existing struggle with hunger.

The brute spikes are likely going to hit with more severity since the government is more interested in the increased revenue generation emanating from the border closure. There is also concern that the increased Nigerian Custom revenue will become a bait that will lure Nigeria back to recession.

The Nigerian Government has been urged to reconsider its stand since it admitted that the prevalence of smuggling has been mostly as a result of corrupt Nigerian Custom Service. Some have suggested that Nigeria should pull out of AfCFTA before her actions and inactions immobilize the collective efforts of other African countries.

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