In 2019, the Nigerian government decided to close its borders in a bid to reduce the smuggling and illegal inflows of goods such as rice and outflows of Nigeria’s subsidized fuel. The Nigerian government justifies the closure of the border by pointing to the need to support the agricultural sector in Nigeria and increase national productivity
In a bid to achieve regional integration across West African countries, the ECOWAS treaty was formed in 1975. This move has not been without its challenges which includes:
The violation of the ECOWAS treaty on the movement of goods and people through the smuggling of firearms
Human and drug trafficking which has further promoted insurgency and threatened the peace and stability of the ECOWAS countries and especially Nigeria.
However, border closure is a very serious decision not to be taken lightly. In fact, nations across the world only resort to closing their borders in circumstances they cannot control such as war.
The decision to close the country’s border for economic reasons is more or less an economic aberration. Over the years, countries that have closed their borders take the decision, not for trade-related reasons. For example, in the case of Sudan, Rwanda, and others, these countries closed their borders when their security was jeopardized. Countries also close borders during disease outbreaks such as Ebola or other pandemics, that have high potential to spread across borders.
Disadvantages of Border Closure in Nigeria
This article reveals to you many other disadvantages of border closure in Nigeria. Read on below:
Negative consequences on local communities
The border closure in Nigeria has badly affected the livelihoods of many in local communities near the border. In Benin, communities in areas close to the Seme border or near the Owode border, largely depend on Nigerian markets as their means of livelihood. The sudden closure of the border has caused thousands of small business farmers to lose their means of making money and also default on loans. In these regions, there exist strong economic networks where small business traders are able to make money, the closure of the border has made these ones lose their primary sources of income.
Negative consequences on Nigerian consumers
Not only is the disadvantage of the Nigerian border closure felt by those living in areas close to the borders. Nigerians are also feeling the negative consequences of the government’s action. Due to the closure, prices of goods have been pushed up, most significantly of which is rice. It is reported that in Ibadan, a city with a relatively affordable cost of living, the price of local rice increased by almost 9% in the month the border was closed. This is the largest month-on-month increase in rice since 2012. Not only rice but the prices of other foods such as palm oil, fish, meat, and bread are also increasing. This is particularly troubling in a nation where approximately half of the household’s budgets are spent on food and the prices of food are ordinarily higher than it is found in the rest of the world.
Border closure is not enough to measure
The government claims it took this action, closing its borders so as to stimulate sustained production growth within the county. However, closing the borders is not enough to achieve this. The government needs to support the private sector through the following other crucial means:
- Necessitating the provision of public goods that are needed. This will help to establish a conducive business environment and also reduce transaction costs for firms.
- Providing easy access to credit
- Improving land tenure and land titling systems
- Providing and ensuring access to affordable and stable electricity.
Closing the borders results in isolation of domestic markets which does nothing in reducing costs of production. The consumers get to bear the burden of these costs. The closure of the border is only a temporary solution that will not help in addressing the root causes of smuggling.
Economic experts have mostly predicted that the border closure will not help the government achieve its goals in the long-run. This is because the closure is a temporary fix to the problem of smuggling. Smuggling has other deep-rooted causes such as differences in price between Nigeria and its neighboring countries. These factors are likely to persist long after the border is reopened if not properly addressed.
If the government insists on closing the borders still and the increase in prices of food continues, Nigeria could see more people driven into poverty. This would result in an increase in the country’s poverty rate. In a country with limited employment opportunities and an already high poverty rate, this is expected as people are spending more than they can afford on food and many others have their means of survival taken away from them.
The invalidation of the ECOWAS treaty
The move of the Nigerian government to close its land borders has raised questions over the validity of the ECOWAS treaty. The ECOWAS treaty permits the free movement of people and goods across West Africa. Aside from the implications of the border closure on Nigerian citizens, it is also inconsistent with the aim of regional economic integration. Nigeria headed the establishment of ECOWAS 44 years ago with the major aim of a “free trade area” among member states.
Nigeria’s unilateral decision to close its borders reinforces the general belief that the West African states have not been successful in achieving their aim of setting up ECOWAS 44 years ago. The ECOWAS treaty was aimed at ensuring the free movement of goods and even people within the ECOWAS member states. It is expected that Nigeria would have combined efforts with the other states in curbing smuggling.
There are reports that the closure of the country’s borders has increased the inflation rate. The inflation rate rose to 11.24% in 2019 after the closure and was mainly driven by the increase in food prices.
Note that at the heart of the problem of smuggling is a network of many other issues mentioned in the article such as lack of access to credit and other facilities needed to aid production. Another is the unprofessionalism and corruption of custom and Immigration officials. The land borders of Nigeria are also very porous with many illegal paths through which smuggling takes place.
In order to tackle the problem of smuggling, the government has to address these other fundamental issues, or else remedies such as closing the borders will remain temporary fixes with many disadvantages to the masses.