Border closure doesn’t violate free trade agreement – Minister

Contrary to the arguments of some critics that the border closure is a breach of the African free trade agreement, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, thinks otherwise.

Nanono said closing the border didn’t violate the provisions of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which is expected to ensure ease of trade and transportation of goods without barriers.

According to him, the decision to shut the land border was made to protect Nigerian traders as most activities at the border were not in the interest of Nigerians.

President Buhari had signed the free trade agreement in July after Nigeria delayed its assent for about one year. The deal opened Nigeria’s market to not just neighbouring countries, but also to more than 30 African countries seeking to trade in Africa’s largest economy. Nigeria’s agreement to take part in a free market was largely celebrated until President Buhari ordered the closure of the border months after.

The decision has drawn criticism from Nigeria and the international market, with Ghana, Vietnam and other governments urging Nigeria to reopen its land borders due to the financial impact being experienced by companies in their countries.

But Nanono said signing a free market shouldn’t render Nigeria a dumping ground. He said the illegal trade or smuggling was a problem that the border closure was solving.

“Free trade does not mean Nigeria has to be a dumping ground for everything imported by others. These products are not even from all these countries involved. So, why should they be feasting on us?

“Nigeria controls 60 to 70% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the West African sub-region. So, Nigeria’s economy still remains a buffer zone for the sub-region,” he said in a Leadership report.

“Besides, most of the people that come into this country and melt into the population from the n sub-region come in because this country is accommodating them. This happens to the extent that some of these people when they migrate into this country, you do not even know that they are immigrants.

“For example, people from the Niger Republic when they come into Kano State, what will differentiate them from the people of Kano, or those from the Benin Republic who come into Oyo State or Osun State. They look like us.

“This situation creates a problem, and the border closure is a measure that has gone a long way in solving it,” Nanono said while reiterating that the border closure wasn’t ordered to hurt the economy of other countries. He emphasised that Nigeria had tried to get neighbouring countries to check the illegal activities at the borders, but the effort wasn’t fruitful.

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