BusinessDay

Reopening of borders booster for manufacturing, trade, says OPS

…seeks framework to curb smuggling

Members of the organised private sector (OPS) have described the Federal Government’s full reopening of Nigeria’s major international land borders as timely, saying it would allow businesses to access more markets, source raw materials easily and explore options for expansion.

The OPS comprises the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), and the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE).

Frank Onyebu, chairman, Apapa branch of MAN, told BusinessDay that Nigeria has robust borders which offer opportunities for larger markets and expansion for businesses in the manufacturing sector, but these opportunities are being snatched away by smuggling and dumping of low-quality goods.

“The reopening gives room for manufacturers to explore other markets, expand their businesses and even diversify their portfolio, in addition to this, the manufacturing sector is at the brink of collapse as stakeholders deal with rising production costs, FX shortages, supply cuts, tax burdens, among other issues, this will serve as a relief in this trying period,” he said.

Onyebu noted that the borders should not have been closed in the first place if it was properly secured from the activities of smugglers and other illegal businesses, adding that following this reopening, those manning the borders need to be more effective and efficient in carrying out their activities.

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“Although the issues of national security, smuggling, and the COVID-19 pandemic are not to be taken lightly, the closure of land borders has contributed to the loss of markets and disruption of supply chains for members of the private sector that engage in trade, and this has played a part in rising inflation, especially with food prices, bringing a different dimension to the issues of insecurity faced by the economy,” Opeyemi Alaran, acting director-general of NACCIMA said.

Alaran noted that the negative economic impact of the border closure outweighed its benefits seeing that it prompted retaliatory action from other West African trade partners, which put a further strain on the implementation of the ECOWAS Free Trade Area.

“We are delighted with this decision to reopen these land borders which should indicate a resolution of the concerns raised by the Nigerian government that led to their closure. We urge that trade facilitation measures are also accelerated to boost the productivity and competitiveness of the Nigerian private sector and to take advantage of the trade agreements,” he said.

Gabriel Idahosa, vice president, of LCCI said the reopening will have an immediate positive impact due to the significant amount of traffic on goods and services from neighbouring countries.

“It will boost businesses and trade activities seeing that prices of goods and services are usually cheaper at borders, consequently transactions will pick up for goods and services that are legally accepted among neighbouring countries,” he said.

Muda Yusuf, chief executive officer, CPPE said the reopening of the land borders is a welcome development and will further strengthen economic integration and benefit the economies of West African countries. He, however, noted that it is important to guide against the factors that led to the initial closure of the border such as smuggling and the perpetration of all manners of atrocities.

“The security agencies at the borders should be more effective and efficient in policing the borders while ensuring that we adopt more technological options in the management of our borders such as the use of scanners, ICT systems, issues around connectivity that could facilitate trade to avoid the incidence of smuggling and other similar crimes,” he said.

Yusuf said that informal traders who are the major constituents of border transactions should be educated on issues around documentation and compliance in carrying out trading activities, adding that services of interpreters should be engaged seeing that we share borders with French-speaking countries.

According to a circular signed by E.I Edorhe, Deputy Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the Federal Government directed the Customs to open Idiroko, Ogun State; Jibiya, Katsina State; Kamba, Kebbi State, and Ikon, Cross River State borders with immediate effect.

This development is coming 15 months after the president approved the phased re-opening of Mfun, Seme, Illela, and Maigatari across the country.

The borders had been closed since August 2019, with only partial reopening allowed in December 2020

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