The Federal Government’s decision to shut the nation’s land borders against neighbouring countries will remain, despite any short-term losses, until they ratify Nigeria’s proposed anti-smuggling policy, according to Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele.
Emefiele, who held a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday, noted that since the closure, Nigerian rice and poultry farmers had been benefitting from the development.
According to him, the farmers have been able to market all their accumulated produce, which were before now left unsold as a result of illegal importation and smuggling of the items into the country.
Nigeria is bordered by Niger Republic in the north and Benin Republic in the west. The two countries are noted as having several smuggling routes into Nigeria. Their borders into Nigeria were closed last month.
The closure had earlier raised concerns among Nigerians as the immediate effect was felt through a general rise in the prices of food items, leading to a policy-induced pressure on inflation that caused 0.22 per cent rise to 11.24 per cent in September, against 11.02 per cent in August.
The average prices month-on-month basis, rose by 1.04 per cent in September, in both food (13.5 per cent) and non-food (8.9 per cent) items, particularly the prices of bread and cereals, oils and fats, meat, potatoes, yam and other tubers, fish and vegetables.
Most of these items, if not all, pass through Benin Republic’s commercial city of Cotonou, with a large portion of them smuggled into Nigeria, adding no economic value to the nation’s fiscal projections.
Emefiele said the development had negatively affected Nigeria’s economy, adding that the government was determined to keep the borders closed until all engagements in connection with the issues were concluded with the neighbouring countries to have them stop the use of their ports as launch pads for smuggling items into Nigeria.
“In November 2015, President Buhari, CBN and some state governors went to Kebbi State to launch the wet season rice farming. Since then, we have seen astronomical growth in the number of farmers who have been going into rice farming and our production has gone up also quite exponentially.
“Also, between 2015 and now, we have seen an astronomical rise in the number of companies and individuals that are setting up mills, integrated mills and even small mills in the various areas.
“The CBN and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development have been at the centre of not just encouraging the production of rice in Nigeria, but also funding these farmers by giving them loans to buy seedlings, fertilisers or some of the herbicides that they need for their rice production.
“We have been embarking on a programme where we are saying if you are involved in the business of smuggling or dumping of rice in the country, we close your account in the banking industry. And that is coming very effectively.
“So, the benefit of the border closure is that it has helped to create jobs for our people, it has helped to bring the integrated rice milling that we have in the country back into business again and they are making money now.
“Our rural communities are bubbling because there are activities, as rice farmers are able to sell their paddy. The poultry business is also doing well, and also maize farmers who produced maize from which feeds are produced are also doing business. These are the benefits.
“We are not saying that the borders should be closed in perpetuity, but that before they are reopened, there must be concrete engagements with countries that are involved in using their ports for bringing in goods that are smuggled into Nigeria,” he said.
Also, the bank’s Director of Corporate Communications Department, Isaac Okorafor, noted that the border closure would strengthen the policy of diversification, grow domestic industries and boost the nation’s economic growth.
Speaking in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State during the CBN’s sensitisation programme yesterday, with the theme, “Promoting Financial Stability and Economic Development”, Okorafor alleged that importers were sabotaging the Federal Government’s efforts in growing the nation’s economy.
Represented by the Assistant Director, Corporate Communications, Samuel Okogbue, Okorafor urged Nigerians to focus on the growth and development of the domestic economy by boosting local productions.
“These importers should come and establish here; we cannot continue to consume other countries’ goods. No country develops by consuming from others. People should not condemn the government for border closure, it is for our interest. By producing goods locally, jobs will be created, the value of the naira will appreciate and the chain effect is that the domestic economy will become vibrant.
“We have to emulate the Chinese economy. When China began manufacturing, people referred to their products as fake. Today, China is leading in the manufacturing of most products in the world. Nigeria can become another China. What our people are doing in Aba, in Abia State is an encouraging example,” he said.
He, therefore, urged Nigerians to fully embrace the policies and programmes of the bank, which according to him, are geared towards entrenching both micro and macro-economic stability of the country.