Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Nigeria: Border closure extended, impact on transborder trade

Article from AFRIC Editorial
The Federal Republic of Nigeria under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has taken another controversial step to push to a later date the border closure effected some months back. President Muhammadu Buhari on November 1, 2019, signed an official document paving the way for its Land borders to remain closed to neighbouring nations including Benin, Ghana, Chad, and Cameroon among others. The border obscurity period will run till January 31, 2020. This was made public by Victor Dimka, the Comptroller of Customs in charge of Enforcement, Investigation and Inspectorate, and addressed to Sector Coordinators of the Joint Border Operation Drill - Sectors 1, 2, 3, and 4. Sheikh Mohammed, a Muslim cleric has however argued that shutting borders by the Buhari led government was an unnecessary and radical decision, coming just three months after signing the historic African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA to promote Intra Africa trade. The Muslim cleric has however, cast doubt on whether Africa is ready to trade with itself.

The Buhari administration in August this year shut all its land borders in what it termed as efforts to prohibit smugglers and criminals who stand as threats to the country’s security and economy. Many have attributed unlawful importation of low-cost rice as a foremost cause of the decision by the Nigerian government to close its borders. The extension is said to have been forced by the need to meet up with other strategic objectives of the federal government. According to Victor Dimka, even though the border closure had recorded successes, a few objectives are yet to be achieved. While Nigeria is not the first country to shut its border, it has however raised eyebrows because it is Africa’s number one in terms of economic growth. But, the laxity exercised by president Buhari towards the continental free trade area has left doubts in the minds of many pundits. It should be noted that Nigeria is yet to ratify the AfCFTA after signing some months back in Niger. It is noteworthy that if the AfCFTA is fully materialized, it will present the largest free trade area in the global world. As per estimates, the AfCFTA has the potentiality of face-lifting Intra-African trade by 60% in 2022.

Impact on trade and regional integration

The question of whether the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA would be successful or effective once again comes to the limelight after Nigeria, one of Africa’s excelling economies placed a barrier on its borders for the second time this year. Though it looks just simple to the ordinary citizen, many economists and even political pundits have raised much concern over this move by the federal government, decrying that it is a catalyst to derail the smooth functioning of the remarkable African Continental Free Trade Area-AfCTA. The recent border crisis and squabbles among nations on the continent have cast so much uncertainty on the prospects of increasing Intra Africa trade by 52.3% by 2020 under the AfCFTA. As asserted by some Nigerians, the extension of the border closure by Buhari would undermine the government’s trade commitment with West African nations (ECOWAS STATES) as well as the AfCFTA.

This closure does not only impede regional trade but it also undermines continental integration. Dreams of an enhanced Intra African Trade and regional integration seems to be on the balance in recent times as border closures and squabbles among African countries are ostensibly increasing. Though it may look minute, the implications of closed borders on trade are far more than what one can imagine. Though subtle, it negatively affects the informal sector. Border trade between Nigeria and Benin brings much revenue and profit to many Beninese trading along the border. Too many closed borders or trade barriers hamper strides of trade compliance on the continent. The aforesaid are perceived as catalysts prohibiting the proper functioning of the historic continental free trade area and killing the dream of a unified Africa.


Regional integration

According to some pundits, regional integration actually defines or powers Africa’s future, thus it is imperative to uphold it. In an African context with so much diversity, if the principles of regional integration are understood and applied, countries will experience growth, peace and stability. When Africa will wipe out the physical, political, social and economic barriers that isolate countries from one another, its leaders will be able to address challenges and opportunities. According to the World Bank, when a nation embraces regional integration, it is bound to experience more trade and investment, better management of natural and shared resources, fewer conflicts across borders among other positive aspects.

Hence the prevalence of border barriers and rows in Africa undermines the importance and visions of integration. Shirley Ayorkfor Botchwey, Ghana’s Minister of foreign affairs and regional integration has said the trade war Nigeria has with Benin is already causing Ghanaian exporters and other countries a lot. She has therefore challenged Nigeria to derive ways in which Ghanaian goods can enter Nigerian markets without major problems.

It should be noted that Ghanaian traders had retaliated urging all foreigners operating shops in Ghana to quit, blaming Nigeria for violating the ECOWA protocol to protect its citizens and economy. However, the blame game would only succeed in derailing Africa in its efforts to becoming economically viable. It is therefore important that countries settle their differences, harmonize their ideologies while addressing those phenomena impeding proper implementation of development projects on the continent. Let Africa trade with itself against all odds.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Photo Credit: google image/illustration

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