Dr. Micheal Adebayo is the Chairman, Oil and Gas Sectoral Group of MAN.
WHAT has been the impact of the border closure on the economy thus far?
To me the border closure is very good. If the Chinese could close their borders for decades and turn out to become what it is today, I see no reason why Nigeria should not close its border for good. This is because our neighbours have taken us for granted and they all refuse to play according to the rule of the game. These neighbours use their countries as free camps to import goods from the West that end up in Nigeria. This is good and I think for once, we should close our eyes to any form of criticisms and follow the right channel and make sure that we go ahead and do something that is right for the country. Secondly, you can notice that most of our petroleum products are going to those places despite the government closing petrol stations 20 kilometers away from the borders. Petroleum products smuggling was on the increase on the regular bases. But for now, we save over N1 billion daily from petroleum smuggling due to border closure.
Moreover, irrespective of the border closure, smuggling activities are still going on. For instance, when I was coming in on the first of January 2020, by 5:00 am, I saw some smugglers conveying frozen chickens and they were about 15 vehicles, driving against traffic around Isheri area of Lagos State. The question is how did they make it into the country by that time and where did they take? So, you can imagine what has been happening to our dear economy for years of neglect? For this, the Nigerian customs need to double their efforts in order to be able to stop these culprits.
What has been the impact on manufacturers, especially?
To me, some of the items that were freely coming into the country are no longer coming, which is better for us. I wonder why people are complaining. This is because the government only closed it for 12 hours, which means that from 6:00am to 6:00pm, it is opened to normal business while it is only closed from 6:00pm to 6:00am, because this particular time is when smugglers bring in arms and ammunitions. So to me, it doesn’t matter how long the border is closed as long as we get our economy in good shape. Come to look at it, the Chinese closed theirs for close to 40years, without signing any trade agreement, and today they are doing very well all over the world. The Chinese did not complain because they had focus, they wanted the future of their citizens to be better.
It is only the people that do not know what is going on with the country’s troubled economy that are complaining. I have been a member of many committees, and I know what is going on. So, with the explanation I have given earlier, I wonder why people are complaining if they are into legitimate business, because the border is opened to legitimate business between 6:00am and 6:00pm. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing wrong with that. You can recall that during the Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, he closed the border for 20hours for five days and the President of Benin Republic ran to Nigeria to beg.
What is your take on the reopening of border as the government earlier promised?
I do not support the earlier proposed date of January this year by the government for the reopening of border. If closing the border for two years will make our neighbours do the right thing, there is nothing wrong in it. Just for this border closure, Nigeria is saving over N1 billion daily. So you can imagine what we have been losing to our neighbouring countries. That means that the advantages of border closure cannot be overemphasised. To me the government has done very well with it, and let it continue that way until serenity returns to our border. Again, with this, normalcy would return and joblessness would reduce, because we would not continue to create jobs for other countries while our teaming youths are jobless.
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