On Sunday, November 3, 2019, the Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Joseph Attah, told The Nation Newspaper that there is not stipulated date for the re-opening of the borders.
Explaining an internal memo arising from the NCS, Attah, said January 31st, 2020, is the terminal date of the Joint Security EX-SWIFT Response (a joint border security exercise). He insisted that the border closure will last until it achieved its objective.
In August 2019, the Nigerian government closed its border to tackle illicit trade and strengthen security in the country. It also asked neighbouring countries to respect rules of origin. The move has been widely criticised. Many believed it is against the letter and spirit of the ECOWAS and Africa trade pact.
What is in it for Nigeria?
Arising from the closure, the customs authority said it raked in N5 billion daily as a result of the closure. The Customs Boss, Hammed Alli, told Nigerian lawmakers during a budget defense, last month.
According to the Brooking Institute, the border closure will have a huge negative impact on Benin Republic's substantial income and employment as the tiny West African nation relies heavily on Nigeria.
Apart from the economy of Benin, Nigerians are also feeling the effect on their purchasing power as the price of staple foods and other items skyrocketed.
Nigeria is largely an import-driven economy and someof the goods consumed are shipped from neighbouring country, Benin Republic – which has been a trading hub, importing goods and re-exporting them to Nigeria, benefiting from the porous border movement.
The price of rice – which is Nigeria's main staple - has doubled over the months and substitute items like Pasta also increased ahead of festive season.
In an interview with New Telegraph - a local newspaper, the Northern textiles traders it has incurred huge losses since the beginning of the policy.
Alhaji Gambo Danpass, the group spokesperson, said the figure may soon hit N3 trillion if the government failed to address the border closure.
Apart from the usual smuggling of rice, cars, and small arms, the Nigerian-Benin border is a viable channel for legitimate businesses, many of which are now stranded at borders.
Wake up for ECOWAS and AU
Just the government is making efforts to efforts to tackle porous border, there is the need for ECOWAS and AU to stand firm and tackle the issue holistically. Neighbouring countries also need to intensify collaboration with the Nigerian authorities to tackle the menace.
Anything short, businesses will continue to count losses, drastic slide in purchasing power, and dampened economic growth of Sub-Saharan Africa.