The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, says ” there is no gain without pain” and Nigerians must endure the temporary effects of the border closure to reap the attendant benefits.
The minister stated this on Monday when he paid a working visit to the new corporate headquarters of The Sun Newspaper in Lagos.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports the minister, who said the visit was part of his ongoing media tour, was received by the management of the newspaper led by Onuoha Ukeh, the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief.
Fielding questions from the editorial board, the minister reiterated government position that the borders’ closure was not indefinite and was as a result of the failure of the neighbouring countries to fulfil their obligations.
“What has happened is that there is an agreement among the ECOWAS member states that goods coming into Nigeria must be containerized and taken through the border where they can be assessed and attested that they are not smuggled items.
“However, this agreement has not been adhered to by our neighbours
“We know that the closure is inflicting some collateral damages to many people but in the overall interest of Nigerians, we need to persevere and bear with the government so that our neighbours would be responsible and responsive.
“You can not turn Nigeria to a dumping ground of harmful goods just because we are neighbours and share common borders.
“For instance, the largest volume of the parboiled rice that come into Nigeria is smuggled through the borders.
“Nobody is paying any duty on the goods and they are disincentive to local industry,” he said.
On the gains of the closure, the minister said that apart from billions of Naira accruing to government purse from payment of duties, there have been a lot of testimonies of Nigerians in the agricultural sector.
He said many poultry farmers have given testimonies of how the border closure had improved on their sales of eggs and birds while there has been high demand for local rice.
“For instance, there is a Dr Balogun who retired from Total and established poultry farms in Ibadan.
” He called to thank the government that before the border closure he was selling 4,000 birds today the demand is 15,000 birds. Market is elastic.
“But for the border closure, there would have been a glut in the rice market.
” This is because of the bountiful harvest witnessed this year,” he said.
The minister assured Nigerians that with the bountiful harvest the price of local rice will be crashed soon.
“Local rice is not only helping our economy and generating employment but it is also more healthy than the imported rice.
“I can assure you that it will not be forever, we are also engaging our neighbours so that they can do the right thing,” he said.
Reacting to the question on whether Nigeria, with the border closure, has flouted the Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) recently signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, the minister said that national security takes precedence over any agreement.
“First is the issue of national security and the survival of the country.
“A country must survive first before it becomes a member of an organisation and signatory to any agreement.
“For us, it is because there is a Nigeria that we can first talk of signing the AFCTA.
“We believe that there is an external threat to our economy that needed to be addressed first then we will resolve the issue of AFCTA,” he said.
The minister stressed that Nigeria had become a dumping ground for imported goods and losing massive revenue on a daily basis.
NAN reports that President Buhari’s directive on limited closure of the country’s western border was effected to allow Nigeria’s security forces develop a strategy to curb smuggling.
The Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, has also announced that the land borders will remain closed pending when Benin and other neighbouring African countries stop taking Nigeria for a smuggling destination.