Nigeria Employers' Consultative Association, NECA, has raised concern over the federal government's stance that the closure of the nation's borders will remain in force indefinitely, contrary to the initial news that the closure has been extended till end January 2020.
Recall that the nation's land borders were closed on August 20, 2019 with the government saying the closure will last for just 28 days, but was extended twice until last weekend when the Nigerian Customs Service says it will remain closed until the initial objective was achieved.
Reacting to the development yesterday in Lagos, Director-General of NECA, Mr. Timothy Olawale, stated: "While we acknowledge the trade imbalance between Nigeria and its neighbours and the security challenges facing the country currently, the citizen's welfare and business prosperity should not be sacrificed for the inefficiency of our border policing."
He contended that the coordination and management of fiscal policies should be geared towards enterprise competitiveness, job creation and alleviating poverty as against impoverishing the people by such policies of government.
According to Olawale, "Despite the many merits that comes with the border-closure, we are concerned that the policy comes without any palliative for legitimate local businesses, which negates the attempts at alleviating poverty and reduce unemployment.
"The continuous closure also possesses the capacity to render many Nigerians jobless and hungry. The policy was more consistent with income generation and not in agreement with the harsh effect it has on households, businesses and investors' confidence in general. Since the advent of this policy, prices of goods, especially food items had increased tremendously, further making the average Nigerian vulnerable as 70% of poor households budget is spent on food."
He reiterated the need to address the fundamental challenge of smuggling and insecurity, insisting that "government must take a broader look at the fundamentals of its assumptions that led to the decision to close the borders.
Government should not stifle legitimate businesses because of the inefficiency of the Customs Service to keep the borders safe. If the borders are safe and Government enforces the bilateral and multilateral agreements it had signed with other countries, there won't be need to close the borders. Efforts should be stepped up to equip the Customs to live up to its responsibilities of protecting the borders and nip smuggling in the bud.
"At a time like this when unemployment rate is on the increase (23.1%), underemployment at 16.6% and expected to reach 33.5% by 2020, inflation rate now on upward trend, Government's fiscal and monetary policies should focus on sustainable enterprise, job creation and rapid economic development premised on wide-range consultation with critical stakeholders."