By Nasir Isa
The announced opening of four land borders, in three of the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria, by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday does not lift the restrictions on importation of commodities like rice, poultry, pork, beef, eggs, refined vegetable oils, sugar, cement and textile materials.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, made the disclosure while announcing President Buhari’s approval for opening land borders at the end of the 28th Federal Executive Council Meeting that was chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
She added that the remaining land borders will be opened on or before 31st December, 2020. Commentators believe African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is the main reason for the decision to re-open the borders that have been closed about 19 months ago.
Counting the gains recorded as a result of the closure, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo said the period of the closure afforded authorities the opportunity to assess the security problems with a view to addressing them.
Adebayo said, “We have many advantages to the border closure, it has given the security agencies an opportunity to access the problems at the borders, particularly with regard to smuggling.
“As you are all aware, before the border closure, a lot of petroleum products were being smuggled to West African countries and the border closures has created a situation that has tactically stopped that; they have been able to calculate the number of petroleum products being smuggled out by calculating the amount that is being lifted now compared to what was being lifted before.
“The issue of smuggling of rice to the country has reduced drastically and we are hoping that our agencies will be able to sustain that so also is the issue of poultry smuggling. “
With this development, import and export of approved goods would begin after months of closure, a development that impeded businesses and social activities.
Nigeria, had in November, 2020, ratified the AfCFTA agreement which will come into effect on 1st January, 2021. AfCFTA aims at creating a single market for goods and services in Africa. By 2030, the market size across the continent is expected to include 1.7 billion people with over $6.7 trillion of cumulative consumer and business spending.