• Sunday, June 16, 2024
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Cameroon reopens North Nigeria border as Boko Haram retreats


Nigeria’s trading business with Central and West African markets will soon resume as normal, as Cameroon reopens its border in the far North region, following the depletion of Boko Haram attacks in the area.

With the re-opened border, manufacturers and traders of finished products from Nigeria such as bathroom slippers, glass wares, cosmetics and personal care products, food, cocoa and other beverages, steel, aluminum and chemicals which thrive in these markets will resume business in Cameroon, Niger republic, Chad, Tanzania and other neighbouring countries, stakeholders say.

Following the flushing out of Boko Haram by the military, businesses including telcos and banks are engaged in a big rush to resume operations in a quest to benefit from the concept of first mover advantage, which observers say might translate to first returnee advantage in this case.

Midiyawa Bakari, Borno state governor, confirmed the plans to re-open land borders and markets,to Bloomberg, saying; “The efforts of defense and security forces, as well as the remarkable contributions by self-defense groups, have paid off enough to permit the reopening of the closed markets and the land border with Nigeria.”

“At this stage in the crisis, we are confident to declare that the insecurity caused by Boko Haram is firmly under control,” he added.

Cameroon closed the border amid at least 200 attacks by the Nigeria-based militant organisation which killed as many as 480 people since July 2015, according to Amnesty International.

Since then, Nigerian manufacturers who had previously dominated the Central and West African markets were restricted in the flow of products into these countries.

Analysts say this development brings promise of growth for the Nigerian economy, as it removes the constriction  to volumes of products originating from here and flowing into the West and Central Africa region and beyond.

In a similar vein, with the return of peace in the North-East, the telecommunications operators are moving to restore normal operations in affected areas where operations were stalled due to destruction of masts.

Analysts say that the first telcos to restore seamless service will likely win over the subscribers of other networks and so there is a fight for first returnee advantage.

All four mobile networks are reported to be in a rush to repair their damaged infrastructure and restore full service but two of them appear more spirited in this quest.

The service of the mobile networks are particularly significant in the region at this time because subscibers are reported to feel safer transfering funds and paying bills from their mobile phone portals than from banking halls.

However, sources say they are taking extra pre-cautionary steps to ensure maximum security for safe business operations by hiring private security personnel to protect their base stations and cell sites, as they return in full force.

Private security services are also thriving in the said three north-eastern states as businesses and high networth individuals are hiring armed escorts to move their goods and personnel from point to point.

Armed escort services are in such high demand that the Nigeria Army is investigating reports  that some of  its personnel are freelancing in this direction.

The Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj-Gen. Lucky Irabor, has warned military personnel to desist from collecting money to escort civilian motorists and goods along the major roads in North-east.

“I wish to use this opportunity to state that we have received reports that some of our personnel are in the habit of collecting money to escort civilian motorists and goods along the major routes in areas of responsibilities.

“Based on our responsibility to Nigerians, the people are not required to pay for escorts in the Boko Haram affected states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa in the North-East,” he said.

Mobile network sources told BusinessDay that blown up telecoms masts had been repaired and business has commenced in some parts of the North- East.

When asked how security is ensured, our source said; “we have our own private security personnel that we pay to make sure that business runs efficiently.”

“Businesses are fighting for first to grab the market but it will be unwise for them to resume operations without making sure that there is adequate security,” Lanre Ajayi, a telecoms industry analyst and the immediate past president, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) told BusinessDay in a telephone interview.

Apart from telecommunication operations and trading, the agricultural business which Borno state is known for is now doing relatively well, as the farmers of sesame, beans, cotton and other produce are in production and maintain patronage from the country and other parts of the world.

Abdulraman Modibbo Girei, President, Adamawa Chamber of Commerce told BusinessDay that since  Boko Haram have been completely routed by the military,  farming and trading businesses  have resumed operation in the three majorly affected states. 

“Farmers have already started harvesting crops like maize, wheat and some fruits right now. Others have been planted, waiting for harvest season. However, grazing is low in Yola, as most of the livestock in that area were affected by Boko Haram but generally, I would say trading of livestock has been quite good, considering how much damage was done and new small scale businesses have been springing up so people are carrying on their lives as normal,” he said.

Talking about the issue of security for businesses in Adamawa State, he said; “there are vigilante groups around the towns for security.”

Jumoke Akiyode with agency report