The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, says that the Nigeria’s borders will remain closed until neigbouring countries meet the conditions for reopening them.
This is coming amid the charge from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that authorities in Nigeria, Benin Republic, Niger and other neighbouring countries urgently resolve the lingering issues that precipitated the recent closing of the country’s land borders in order to mitigate the negative consequences of the policy on their various economies.
Emefiele was fielding questions from State House Correspondents after a closed door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to the CBN Governor, “We are not saying that the borders should be closed in perpetuity, but that before the borders be reopened, there must be concrete engagements with countries that are involved in using their ports and countries as landing ports for bringing in goods meant for local consumption, it is understandable. But the fact that those product are landed in their countries and then transshipped or smuggled into Nigeria is something that I am sure you all agree as Nigerians we should not allow to happen because it undermines our economic policy, it undermines our own desire to make sure that industries are alive and jobs are created in Nigeria.”
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, had at the IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings in Washington DC, said the closure of the country’s borders was a measure to force Nigeria’s neigbours to commit to honouring bilateral agreements which they have failed to do over time.
The CBN Governor said since the closure of the borders, rice and poultry farmers who before now could not sell their products due to smuggling and dumping are now smiling to the bank.
Emefiele said: “You will all recall that in November 2015 President Muhammadu Buhari, the Central Bank and some state governors went to Kebbi State to launch the Wet Season Rice Farming. Since then, we have seen an astronomical growth in the number of farmers who have been going into rice farming and our paddy production has gone up also quite exponentially.
“Between 2015 and also now, we have also seen an astronomical rise in the number of companies, corporate and individuals that are setting up mills, integrated mills and even small mills in the various areas. And the Central Bank and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development have been at the centre of not just only encouraging the production of rice in Nigeria but also funding these farmers by giving them loans to buy seedlings, fertilizers or some of the herbicides that they need for their rice production.
“You will also recall that we have been embarking on a programme where we are saying if you are involved in the business of smuggling or dumping of rice in the country, we will close your account in the banking industry. Although that is becoming very effectively.
“Recently, and this is the absolute truth, about two weeks before the border closure, the chairman of the Rice Processors Association, incidentally, he owns Umza Rice in Kano, called me and said that all the rice millers and processors are having in their warehouses nothing less than 25,000 metric tons of milled rice. That this rice have been unsold because of the smuggling and dumping through Republic of Benin and other border posts that we have in the country and that he would want us to do something about it.
“Secondly, we also have members of the Poultry Association of Nigeria who also complained that they have thousands of crates of eggs that they could not sell together with even some of the processed chickens also arising from problem of smuggling and dumping of poultry products into Nigeria.
“I was told also that after some meetings that were held in addition to those engagements that we (CBN) also held with the president, the border was closed subsequently.
“A week after the borders were closed, the same rice millers association called to tell us that all the rice that they had in their warehouses have all been sold. Indeed, a lot of people have been depositing money in their accounts and they have even been telling them ‘please hold on don’t even pay money yet until we finished processing your rice.’
“The Poultry Associations have also come to say that they have sold all their eggs, they have sold all their processed chickens and that demand is rising.
“So, when you asked, what is the benefit of the border closure on the economy of Nigeria, I just used two products – poultry and rice. The benefit is that it has helped to create jobs for our people, it has helped to bring our integrated rice milling that we have in the country back into business again and they are making money. Our rural communities are bubbling because rice farmers are able to sell. The poultry business is also doing well, and also maize farmers who produce maize from which feeds are produced are also doing business. These are the benefits,” the CBN Governor explained.