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Buhari silent as ECOWAS Parliament begs for reopening of land borders

Upon unprecedented pleadings coming from the entire ECOWAS Parliament on Monday for President Muhammadu Buhari to reconsider the shut land border with neighbouring West African economies, the presidency has remained mute and adamant.

The parliamentarians’ had called for open borders saying it is currently hampering the implementation of free trade movement within the ECOWAS region which Nigeria is signatory to.

Speaker of the Parliament, Hon. Moustapha Cisse Lo, made the call in a statement at the opening of the 2nd Extra Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Monrovia, Liberia.

According to him, the border closure poses a threat to the implementation of the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons at a time when Africa needs to intensify efforts for effective abolition of barriers within the Community.

Cisse Lo, however, urged the government to find a permanent solution to the challenge of smuggling, rather than closing the borders, which was not a lasting solution.

Continuing at plenary, he argued that “In the same vein, the closure of the Nigerian borders with Benin more than a month ago and Niger more recently is a hindrance to the achievement of the Community’s main objective, which is to achieve the creation of a prosperous, borderless West African region where peace and harmony prevail.

“The ECOWAS Parliament calls for compliance with Community provisions and thus calls for the reopening of borders and a coordinated fight against smuggling in the region;

“The root causes of this recurrent situation must be studied with a view to finding a permanent solution.” he added.

Checks at the border on Tuesday showed rising number of stranded loaded trucks carrying goods produced in Nigeria to other West African countries. During a rough count by our correspondents, more than 100 trucks loaded with manufactured goods are seen lining up close to the border post in anticipation that the border would soon be opened.

In several interviews, the truck drivers said they had rumours that the border would be reopened after the end of the recent ECOWAS meeting in Benin Republic weekend but were shocked it did not happen.

Some of the companies whose trucks were stranded include Dangote Cement, Floor Mills of Nigeria, Cadbury and others with good and different products bought from Lagos markets for export to West coast.

On chances of reopening the border sooner, body language of the presidency apparently indicates that the closure is yielding results after all.