Abuja — Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, yesterday listed the gains of border closure since August to include boosting domestic trade, job creation and enhancing Nigeria's economic policies.
Though he said he was not an advocate of permanent border closure, Emefiele added that before the borders would eventually be reopened, affected countries must be effectively engaged with a view to agreeing on certain terms and conditions.
Answering questions from State House correspondents in Abuja after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari before the president's departure to Saudi Arabia, Emefiele illustrated how some businesses, which he said had almost collapsed before the border closure, suddenly became productive barely a week after the closure.
He narrated the experiences of rice millers and members of the Poultry Association of Nigeria whom he said had before the closure called him to lament about low sales, only to witness a sharp rise in demand shortly after the closure.
He described smuggling of foreign products into the country as a major impediment to the growth of local industries and businesses, adding that rice and poultry businesses have been booming optimally since the borders were closed.
According to Emefiele, the closure of the borders has not only boosted businesses in the urban areas, rural areas are also bubbling because businesses such as grain production are now productive as farmers have maximised profits since the closure.
He said: "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 were carrying in their warehouses nothing less than 25,000 metric tonnes of milled rice in their warehouses; that this rice had been unsold because of smuggling and dumping of rice through the 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 that they could not sell, also arising from the problem of smuggling and dumping of poultry products into Nigeria."
He said he was told that after some meetings that were held in addition to those engagements that the CBN also held with the president, the border was closed subsequently.
A week after the borders were closed, he narrated, the same Rice Millers' Association called to tell the bank that all the rice that they had in their warehouses had 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 finish processing your rice," he said.
Emefiele said the poultry association had told him that they had 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) 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 to business again and they are making money," he said.
The CBN governor said the rural communities were bubbling because there were activities and rice farmers were able to sell their paddy, adding that the poultry business was also doing well even as maize farmers, who produced maize from which feeds were produced were also doing business.
"These are the benefits," he emphasised.
Emefiele urged the federal government to list out terms and conditions to be met by Nigerian neighbours before the borders are reopened.
According to him, such terms and conditions must include the kinds of commodities that can be shipped to their countries, pointing out that such commodities must be meant only for their local consumption.
He added that situations where certain commodities, after being shipped to such countries, head for Nigeria would not be acceptable as they undermine the country's economic policies, threaten the productivity of domestic industries and the desire for job creation.
According to him: "We are not saying that the borders should be closed in perpetuity, but before the borders are 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 smuggled 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 they land those products in their countries, and it is meant for their own local consumption, it is understandable.
"But the fact that those products are landed in their countries and then trans shipment of smuggled items 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."