Border reopening ‘ll not reduce food prices – Expert

Osifo Agharese, an associate professor of agricultural economics at Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, on Tuesday, said that the Federal Government’s directive to reopen four borders that had been closed for over two years will not have any measurable impact on the nation’s economy.

The agricultural expert opined that the essence of closing the border was not achieved because it was a political move and not for economic reasons; hence, reopening them now will not affect the prices of goods and commodities, especially food stuff which according to him makes the majority of items that drive the economy.

“The prices of food commodities will not drop now that it has been reopened because prices have already adjusted to its closure, and it has hit the rooftop and will not come down. In Nigeria, prices do not come down. More so, inflation will continue to rise as we count down to the 2023 general election.

“The border has been closed for more than two years now, and the economy is getting used to it. So, we have been so used to it that it will hardly make any significant impact now that it has been opened,” Agharese told BusinessDay in Benin City.

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The university teacher, while noting that during the closure, some commodities like rice and poultry products were smuggled through the borders, expressed worry over the high percentage of citizens’ income spent in buying food items.

“Nigerians do not see the dividends of democracy in the prices of food items. Nigeria is a developing country, and people spend about 70 percent of their income, whether as a government, private employee, or even self employed on food,” he said.

To bring down the prices of food items and other essential commodities, Agharese, a consultant agricultural finance and marketing practitioner to the Bank of Agriculture and Central Bank of Nigeria, urged the government to think outside the box and introduce microeconomic policies that will impact the lives of the ordinary man.

“Government should bring in palliative measures through fiscal and monetary policies. Today, 90 percent of what we consume comes from foreign countries and the naira is losing its value against the dollar.

“Government should bring out policies that will impact the prices of food stuff. The cost of energy, including Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and Diesel, should also be looked into. It is widely known that transportation is an integral part of marketing foods and other goods, and that is why the government should invest in the transportation sector directly to bring down the rising price of food stuff”, he added.

The government of Nigeria had in 2019 closed its land borders to control legitimate and illegitimate movement of goods to and from the country, including contraband food commodities with a bid to boost local production in the country.

Among the borders recently reopened include Idiroko in Ogun State; Jibiya, Katsina State; Kamba, Kebbi State; and Ikom, Cross River State.