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Border closure: Business prosperity, citizens’ welfare at risk- NECA

Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) has said that by further extending the border closure till 2020, the Federal Government was toying with citizens’ welfare and prosperity of businesses.

The authorities of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), weekend, announced extension of the ongoing closure of the country’s land borders till January 31, 2020. The border closure came into force on August 20, 2019,

Speaking on this development in Lagos, on Monday, Timothy Olawale, the Director-General of NECA argued that notwithstanding trade imbalance between Nigeria its neighbouring countries, the citizen s’ wellbeing should be prioritised.

He said: “While we acknowledge the trade imbalance between Nigeria and its neighbours and the security challenges facing the country currently, the citizen’s welfare and business prosperity should not be sacrificed for the inefficiency of our border policing”.

According to Olawale, the coordination and management of fiscal policies should be geared towards enterprise competitiveness, job creation and alleviating poverty as against impoverishing the people by such policies of government.

The DG further noted that “despite the many merits that come with the border-closure, we are concerned that the policy comes without any palliative for legitimate local businesses, which negate the attempts at alleviating poverty and reduce unemployment. The continuous closure also possesses the capacity to render many Nigerians jobless and hungry”.

The NECA boss averred that the policy was more consistent with income generation and not in agreement with the harsh effect it has on households, businesses and investors’ confidence in general.

“Since the advent of this policy, prices of goods, especially food items had increased tremendously, further making the average Nigerian vulnerable as 70 percent of poor households budget is spent on food.”

Olawale reiterated the need to address the fundamental challenge of smuggling and insecurity, stressing that government must take a broader look at the fundamentals of its assumptions that led to the decision to close the borders.

He cautioned against stifling legitimate businesses because of the inefficiency of the Customs Service to keep the borders safe. “If the borders are safe and government enforces the bilateral and multilateral agreements it had signed with other countries, there won’t be need to close the borders. Efforts should be stepped up to equip the Customs to live up to its responsibilities of protecting the borders and nip smuggling in the bud.”

The DG further stated that at a time when unemployment rate is 23.1 percent, underemployment at 16.6 percent and expected to reach 33.5 percent by 2020, and inflation rate on upward trend, government’s fiscal and monetary policies should focus on sustainable enterprise, job creation and rapid economic development premised on wide-range consultation with critical stakeholders.

 

JOSHUA BASSEY

 

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