Business Hilights
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Rice hits N20 in Lagos as MAN, others fear consequences of Benin border closure

Fact checks weekend on the impacts of partial closure of Nigeria-Benin border posts have revealed that price of rice, the most staple food in Nigeria has jumped from N15,000 it was before the closure to over N20,000 in parts of Lagos State.

Business Hilights recalls that President Muhammadu Buhari had on Wednesday last week, said that the exercise, code-named, ‘Ex-Swift Response’, which culminated in a partial closure of Nigeria’s border with Benin Republic, was undertaken, to curb the massive smuggling activities, especially of rice, taking place on that corridor.

Visit to the Seme border axis revealed total frustration of traditional border business operators as whereas loaded vehicles with goods for entry to Nigeria lined up for kilometres on the Benin side of the border, the length of parked delivery trucks on the Nigerian side mainly for ECOWAS markets was unimaginable.

Ayade Rice
Ayade Rice yet to satruate markets

Further investigations revealed that the restriction at the Seme-Benin border followed the joint border security operation ordered by the government, being jointly being conducted by the personnel of Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Police Force and Nigerian Army. It is being coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser.

However, while many Nigerian border businessmen and women have continued to count their losses since Wednesday last week, players in the organised private sector have started raising issues of national importance on the closed border, cautioning that closure runs contrary to a number of treaties signed by Nigeria.

Already, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), have called on the Federal Government not to allow the closure of the Nigeria-Benin border to jeopardise the business of entrepreneurs on that corridor.

lake rice launch
Lake Rice, product of Lagos and kebbi State production alliance yet to be seen in Lagos depots since this year.

Addressing media executives at the pre-Annual General Meeting the association in Lagos, MAN President, Engr. Mansur Ahmed, said “The Federal Government may have good intention for the partial closure of the Nigeria-Benin border, but it must be done in a that entrepreneurs and manufacturing concerns that carry out genuine business along that corridor are not adversely affected.

“If this is not well managed, it may lead to prices of some items hitting the rooftops. So, the exercise must be carried out with the necessary caution.”

Responding to questions on the border closure, Director-General of the LCCI, Mr Muda Yusuf, said the government should be more intelligent in dealing with the issue of border closure to avoid killing budding non-oil export drive on the same government especially in the ECOWAS region.

Yusuf averred that “We should develop the culture of tackling the causes of problems, not fighting the symptoms. This is the way to solve a problem sustainably.

“One of the critical challenges we face as a nation is that of weak state institutions. This is what has manifested in the escalation of the phenomenon of smuggling. It is regrettable that innocent citizens that are struggling to make a living are now being made to pay the price for lapses of ineffectual institutions of state.”

Wacot Rice kebbi
Presidential inspection of Wacot Rice in Kebbi, but none in the open market

According to him, “It is impossible for the scale of smuggling being reported to take place without the connivance of state officials at the borders. The starting point in dealing with this problem is to get the state institutions to do their job. Border closure does not offer a sustainable solution. It only penalises small players in the informal sector. It also disrupts the supply chains and exports transactions of many big firms that do business across the sub-region. The cost of this closure to businesses is evidently phenomenal and would be in billions of naira. It also has implications on the confidence of investors as well.”

Earlier in his submission on the border closure, the Director-General, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Mr Timothy Olawale, observed that “The sudden closure of the borders raises concern for legitimate business owners, especially those involved in perishable goods along the border areas that need to export through the land borders. These businesses will suffer in the name of a blanket closure of the borders with further consequences being job losses.

He further argued that the policy decision will also affect the confidence of investors who might not be disposed to invest in an environment with high uncertainty as ours.