The joy, jubilation, and relief that greeted the announcement of the immediate opening of four of Nigeria’s land borders showed just how much agony people had been in due to the closure of the land borders.
The four land borders to be reopened are Seme Border in Lagos, Maigatari in Jigawa, Ilela in Sokoto, and Mfun in Cross River state while the other borders are to reopen latest by December 31st.
Recall that the borders were shut on the 14th of October 2019 to curtail smuggling of subsidized petrol from Nigeria to neighboring countries, smuggling of small arms, food, agricultural products, and drugs but more than one year on after the closure have these aims been surpassed or achieved in the barest minimum?
Mr. President speaking through the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu on the release of the Katsina schoolboys noted that “it is unfortunate that the bandits and terrorists continue to get weapons even under the circumstances of the border closure”.
What then was the gain achieved? Were the land borders fortified? Was an assessment of all the land borders carried out? What exactly was done differently during the period of the closure?
An important feature that accompanied the closure of the border was the ban on the importation of rice and some other products. The ban on importation of rice, in particular, was supposed to help local farmers and increase production due to the anticipated high demand for rice but how well did that go?
Can we say to a great extent success was achieved? What followed was a sharp increase in the price of rice. Quality was just not the same with different types of rice all termed as local rice and sold at different exorbitant prices. Rice became only affordable and a privilege of select social strata.
Electronics, gadgets, and almost everything got hiked with a sharp upsurge in prices with the only explainable reason for that being the closure of the border. Unfortunately, Nigeria sadly does not manufacture and produce enough to cater to the demand of the ever-growing populace and as such, an absurd increase in the price was inevitable.
A great amount of pain was the ripple effect of the border closure and hike in prices of banned products. Commodities that were supposedly barely affected also had a price increase as they were affected by the hike and suddenly the price of almost every commodity had changed.
The border closure affected trade between countries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as well as other socio-economic activities that were heavily reliant on trade between countries. Many whose source of livelihoods were tied to trade and those who carried out legitimate businesses were and for some, their education was put on hold.
The impact of the border closure was far-reaching on the nation hence the jubilant reaction of many who received the news. For many, it meant a return to normalcy and people could finally begin to see hope for optimism especially in a year that has looked so bleak and shaken the world at large.
The Minister of Finance and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed when announcing the opening of the border mentioned that “Mr. President has also directed that the ban on importation of rice, poultry, and other banned products still subsists and will be implemented by border patrol team” which creates questions as to how the implementation was going to put in place. The ban was able to be implemented largely based on the closure of the border but now that the borders have been opened can the ban be effectively implemented?
Are we going to see a reduction in the hike in prices? Is the price of goods and commodities ever going to return to the former prices and rates they were before the closure?
All these and many more represent the burning questions that the following weeks after the opening would seek to address.