Commercial activities on the major states in Nigeria are popular for adjusting to Govt policies and its implications (e.g. VAT, price changes (most times increase), border closure, etc.) faster than the rural areas despite the wide publicized unrest and disgust over such policies. Residents in Lagos, Abuja, and PH (ie. of these supposed high brow regions) will adjust to price hikes in fuel, food, utility bills, etc faster than others in rural areas across the nation, these urbanized settlers also tend to resist policies and all via available means, most notable via social media forums and platforms such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc while grumbling their way about it all day.
Six months ago, Gen Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) announced that all land borders across the federation be closed indefinitely. The decision was met with grumbles and mumbling across quarters of the populace with many standing against the decision, citing imminent price hikes, as the timing of such ban was said to be very strategic by the govt, like the old adage, one man’s poison is another man’s bread, local farmers have lauded the initiative and are ecstatic about it.
To these farmers and other players in the Agric supply chain, the closure will stop imports of food products and force Nigerians to buy locally grown and produced products over the imports and subsequently grow the naira in the process. In a way, it’s a win-win formula for the govt and the Agric sector.
Before the closure, the Lagos-Seme border was a beehive of activities, letting in millions of tons of unprocessed food (esp. rice) into the country. Other west African countries like Benin, Ghana etc utilized the open border and ECOWAS free trade system to export products to Nigeria, most products that are locally produced are overlooked by Nigerians in preference to the foreign alternatives.
The average Lagosian will rather buy foreign rice or vehicles from Benin than patronize locally made substitutes despite the availability and durability.
At the time of the announcement, most Nigerians felt the closure will be for a while as it was perceived to be a show of power by the president to make a statement on illegal imports temporarily. However, The Buhari led government has shown no remorse or desire to reopen the borders despite numerous pleas especially before the yuletide 2019 season.
While Nigerians and Lagosians per se could not get preferred food in for personal and business use, Ghanaians, Beninois businesses that depended on the millions of consumers in Nigeria were unable to carry out business transactions across the border and saw numerous perishable foodstuffs destined for Nigerian shores and homes destroyed.
This has led to many to question Nigeria’s role in the African Continental Free Trade Area(AfCFTA) – a project to create a $3.4 trillion economic bloc – as it shuts out fellow ECOWAS states despite an existing free trade deal, as a pioneering member and unofficial ‘’senior brother’’ on the board, the border closure brings genuine questions like what effects will the ban have on AfCFTA if the ECOWAS deal can’t be upheld.
There has been a surge in purchase and production of local grains and food products in Nigeria, farmers are more confident and bullish of their opportunities to get the crops over to urban Nigeria and sell compared to yesteryears where farm produce lie in the markets waiting for consumers to purchase but playing second fiddle to foreign food produces.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has been at loggerheads with Africa’s largest economy since she shut her land frontiers with Niger and Benin to curb the smuggling of rice and other commodities. The move “strikes at the roots of our grouping, the free circulation of people and goods”, said Salou Djibo, Niger’s army chief, from the conference in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou.
“The unilateral closure of the borders goes against all the commercial and free movement treaties signed by Nigeria in the framework of ECOWAS,” he said. The decision has drawn the ire of Nigeria’s neighbors, particularly Benin, which shares an economically vital land border and where many citizens thrive from exporting to Africa’s largest market of 190 million people. The border has become a port of entry for tons of rice into Nigeria.
Nigeria has also accused Benin of benefiting from the illegal importation of subsidized oil, costing the government billions of dollars. “Our grouping is living through difficult times,” said Ivorian Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, ECOWAS Commission President.
“We are enfeebled by the closure of borders between Niger, Nigeria, and Benin for six months and this has negatively impacted trade volumes in the bloc in 2019 and 2020.’’
Meanwhile, Nasarawa Farmers and Rice Miller Dealer Association of Nigeria lauded the efforts of the federal government for the partial closure of borders in the country. The chairman of the association, Adamu Ibrahim, made the commendation in an interview with newsmen in Lafia.
He said the border closure by President Muhammadu Buhari has helped Nigerian farmers immensely in the economic development of the country. Adamu said ‘with the partial closure of the country’s borders and the ban on the importation of foreign rice, rice dealers in the state have enhanced the quality of locally processed rice.’’ Adamu also noted that the rice process is Lafia rice mill was stone free and nutritious and urged the public to have faith in the Nigerian rice, as it is better than the imported ones.
According to him, the action has boosted the local production of the product and has helped in employment generation.
He added that when there was no restriction on the importation of foreign rice, at a point the members in Lafia could hardly sell one truck of rice in a week.
“Since the ban of the foreign rice, sometimes we sell up to six trucks of rice in a day amounting to millions just in Lafia rice mill alone,” he said.
He added that apart from the Lafia central rice mill, there were other rice mills at Asakyo, Ashagwan, and others smaller in other local government areas of the state. The chairman explained that the leadership of the association had warned members to ensure that rice was properly dry before milling to ensure its quality was maintained.
Farmers can now enjoy more patronage and get paid adequately for their goods and services, what more, it proves to show that investors can now channel funds and get dividends for their investment in a single secured and easy to navigate pool where all players in the Agric sector are connected and properly accounted for.
Agrikore’s blockchain-based smart-contracting, payments, and marketplace system ensure that everyone in the agriculture sector (including Farmers, FMCGs, Agriculture inputs providers, produce aggregators, insurance companies, food processors, financial institutions, governments, development partners, etc) can do business with each other in a trusted environment. Despite the spate of criticisms that have come against the decision, the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN) has re-echoed Adamu Ibrahim’s sentiments and come out to back the decision by the government to close the borders. This according to them would save the country about US$400 million spent on smuggling rice into the country.
Policies like the border closure are designed to engineer local industrial capacity development and Agrikore has only made that easier by solving the structural and systemic bottlenecks in Nigeria’s operating environment which would have hindered adequate investments in local production.