By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Abuja
Despite the outcry on the closure of Nigeria’s borders, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Governor, Godwin Emefiele, on Monday listed the conditions that could be met before the borders are re-opened.
The CBN Governor said Nigeria’s land borders would remain closed until neighbouring countries agree to implement mutual anti-smuggling policies.
Speaking to State House correspondents after meeting behind closed doors with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja before the President departed to Saudi Arabia, the CBN boss said that the border closure hs reduced smuggling and improved rice production in the country.
The Republic of Niger Republic in the northern border and Benin Republic to the west, are two countries noted as having several smuggling routes into Nigeria. The borders were closed last month.
According to Emefiele, apart from the reduction in rice smuggling, poultry farmers have particularly benefitted immensely from the border closure as they have been able to sell off accumulated produce, hitherto hindered by illegal importation.
He said the situation had been undermining Nigeria’s economy and that the Federal Government was therefore resolute in keeping the borders closed until engagements are concluded with Nigeria’s neighbours to have them stop using their ports as launch pads for smuggling item into the country.
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Emefiele said: “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.
” The Central Bank and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has been the centre of not just only encouraging the production of rice in Nigeria but also funding these farmers by given them loans to buy seedlings, fertilizers or some of the herbicides that they need for their rice production.
“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 close your account in the banking industry. And that is coming 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 carrying in their warehouses nothing less than 25,000 metric tons of milled rice in their warehouses.
“This rice has been unsold because of the smuggling and dumping of rice 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; even some of the processed chickens that they could not sell, also arising from smuggling and dumping of poultry products into Nigeria.”
Emefiele further said, “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 to ‘please hold on don’t even pay money yet until we finish 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, 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 the integrated rice milling that we have in the country back into business again and they are making money.
“Our rural communities are bubbling because there are activities, as rice farmers are able to sell their paddy. 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.
“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 that are smuggling into Nigeria.
“That engagement must be held so that we agree on the basis under which: what are the kinds of products that they can land in their countries because if those products they land in their countries is meant for their own local consumption, it is understandable.
“But the fact that those products 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.”