By Segun Ige
It appeared to be an aura of jubilation, for some, when the Federal Government on December 16 ordered the reopening of four land borders: Seme Border in Lagos State; Illela Border in Sokoto State; Maigatari Border in Jigawa State; and Mfum Border in Cross River State.
For others, that didn’t seem to go down well at all, considering the recurrent threats it poses on security of lives and property, safety of foods and drugs and, last but not least, for fear of internecine invaders and intruders.
The easing of the 16-month close-down is comparatively relieving as it would once again bring about charters and treaties on export-import products including agricultural products, natural resources in the neighbouring West African countries. Arising from the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA, which would become effective from January 2021, the reopening seems to have partially affected four seemingly crucial borders, particularly with respect to the fact that there’d been attested smuggling out of petroleum, on the one hand, and smuggling in of rice, frozen chicken, and small arms and weapons, on the other hand. These, indeed, were troubling scenes that eventually necessitated the closing of the borders in August 2019.
By and large, it is arguably clear that the Buhari administration is not looking beyond its West African coast. Concentrating on exporting within our intra-Africa horizon is creating some unforeseen problems. Now, countries which depend solely on our mineral resources, for instance, petroleum, with no attendant quid-pro-quo that’d make us, currency-wise, subside ever erupting problems in our polity most likely would gradually result in a moribund and morbid economic institution and relationship.
But what is even more important is the fact that, locally, we’re adroit purveyors of the basic necessities of human wants and, internationally, we’re adept dependencies on China’s produce, for example. I believe it’s within the grips of the Federal Government, to this end, to fine-tune finer and more fecund ways of exporting to countries beyond its West African territories.
Even though the border closure was in part meant to have been a springboard to become a more productively fortified economy, the reverse is the case: Nigeria has become more economically disintegrated in its farm products. Well, the hope of farmers, as it were, is that Buhari would fulfill his promise in placing an embargo on farm products that’d potentially deprive the local-made products of consumer price index. That’s a welcoming idea, but it could be better if these farmers had put in proper perspective the all-important profitability in revenue-boosting by exporting our products to the Eastern blocs. Such import substitution is the raison d’être of countries such as Australia, the U.S., and China.
That’s how to build back better the Nigeria of old. Nigeria at the time was exemplary, especially with its robust gross domestic product comparatively in consonance with the success and sustenance of its Agri commodities. Products like cocoa, ginger, garlic, rubber, and turmeric became of particular tremendous benefits to cross-border countries, and as such the result was a reduction of budget deficit amid a minimal government-expenditure leadership system. There could not have been any better way to thrive, politically and economically, when we see the importance of exonerating our local products within and without the country. Here we are loaning and loaning billions of naira to fund a system of government that is way more exorbitant than even the founders’ system of government; even so Buharinomics has been operating on economic orchestration where the orientation for orbital supply is delinquently disproportional to the demands of import-oriented countries like ours. Buhari can take a cue from Shinzo Abe, one-time Japanese Prime Minister, whose tenure had intermittently been truncated by ulcerative colitis. Elected in 2012, Mr. Abe’s “Abenomics” was an offshoot of fiscal policy meant to revive and restore the woebegone economy of Japan. His tripartite economic forum was hinged on monetary policy, fiscal stimulus, and structural reforms. Monetary policy, in the form of short-term negative interest rates, made it easy for consumers and companies to borrow and spend money; the fiscal stimulus meant pumping money into the economy. In other words, investing in infrastructure and financial incentives; and structural reforms, which meant allowing women participation in government, adding more migrants into the workforce to ease labour and enhance economic growth and sustainability, actually seem to be of utmost importance to Buhari’s bedraggled economy.
And so when a certain number of well-meaning Nigerians were clamouring that the Federal Government should restructure Nigeria, in particular, The Redeemed Christian Church of God Pastor E. A. Adeboye, I think what should have been the sine qua non of such serious outrage, considering the new norm COVID-19 has navigated, is economic restructuring. That’s what could sustain the political policy of the country. That’s what, ideally, could uphold the building blocks of Buhari’s Nigeria. That’s what, I believe, would be a panacea to the continued deficit-balance-of-payment problem permeating the country’s economic fabrics. Canvassing for some ‘United States of Nigeria,’ therefore, could be pointless and perverse. Technically, the decision problem of leadership is a stone’s throw from economic infrastructure harum-scarum not made easy for everyone. As a consequence, a successful synergy is created between people, power, and economy, when a made-equal-for-everyone fiscal policy becomes the grundnorm of nation-building.
Outside Nigeria, then, it wouldn’t be problematic coping with bilateral agreements that may ensue in relation to more developed nations. Diplomatic relations in economic terms do have a long-term impact on the sustainable development agenda of the country, to be sure. For example, China-U.S. relations, on the one hand, and Australia-China rapprochement, on the other, seem to have been invidiously imbricated, for one thing, on the argumentum ad hominem that China has been singlehandedly responsible for the novel coronavirus. In January, a Trump-Xi agreement signed ushered Beijing to import $200bn U.S. products ranging from farm products, cars, machinery, and oil. But by the same token, China has barred Australia from exporting coals, barley, beef, seafood, sugar, and wood, presumably as a form of retribution to the China-U.S. trade wars, notably on technology.
As the giant of Africa that it is, Nigeria should not be found wanting in the international fora of lose-win, win-lose, and, more or less, win-win battlegrounds. To be able to gain new economic grounds, come 2021, we’ve got to be willing, deliberately and holistically, in enlisting the country on the visionary platform of being among the global traders of global giants.
And how can we be caught in the web of inescapable mutuality, moving forward? First, as a matter of urgency, we need to diversify our economy by investing in agriculture. Second, we ought to localise our inestimable products, strictly speaking, so that we not only do businesses with our local peers but also participate in the global market of first-world countries.