West Africa: Border Closure - Ecowas Countries Reject Nigerian Goods

Photo: Pixabay
Fence, border
13 November 2019

Notwithstanding the revenue increase the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, said it has achieved with the on-going partial border closure, exporters are counting their losses as countries within the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, sub-region have started rejecting Nigerian cargoes, apparently, as a form of retaliation against the land border closure.

This latest development, according to the exporters, is gradually crippling their businesses.

In a chat with Vanguard Maritime Report, Chief Executive Officer, Multi-mix Academy, an export oriented institution, Dr. Obiora Madu, disclosed that Nigerian exports within the ECOWAS region is decreasing due to the border closure, but he failed to give figures.

He stated: "It is definitely impacting negatively on the economy as the exports done within the ECOWAS region and our neighboring countries are now in decrease. These countries that benefit from the open border, since we have closed it, even though we used to export to them before, you don't expect to get the level of cooperation that we are getting before because they are hit hard by these closed borders".

He further admitted that exporting generally is becoming difficult as cargoes are now undergoing careful examinations before leaving the shores of the country. This, he said, has also impacted negatively on the volume and speed of export.

"The fact is that it definitely has impact on volume, it will also impact on speed and it will not be as swift as it used to be because of scrutiny".

In the same vein, Chief Executive Officer, CEO, Institute of Export Operations and Management, IEOM, Ofon Udofia, who spoke with Vanguard Maritime Report, revealed that the country is losing a lot of money as most of the country's products have these West African nations as export destinations.

He stated: "It is a big problem. We are losing money because when we talk about exporting goods, we are not only talking about exporting it to countries in Asia, Europe or America. We are also talking about exports taking place within the West African sub-region.

"We in the private sector, are victims of this border closure. Take a look at companies like Unilever, they supply goods to other African countries through Nigeria and for many years, they make use of the land borders.

"We have lost a lot of money because of this. Even Dangote who exports cement to Benin Republic has lost a lot".

On making use of the waterways to transport these cargoes, Udofia argued that it is not yet feasible as Nigeria doesn't have any national vessels that ply the Western Coast.

He added that the cost of shipping these goods will increase as the International shipping lines will be triggered to charge extra cost for shipments.

"Even when they say we can make use of the sea, do we have vessels? We don't have vessels plying the West Coast or even a vessel that can carry the volume of what we are exporting.

"Even Maerskline Shipping Company, MSC, or any other international shipping line that will pick products from Nigeria and take it to these West African countries must charge extra fees.

"This is because we don't have any shipping line. Which flag are we flying, we are just deceiving ourselves. When they said that we should use inland waterways for export, we are still negotiating on how we can partner with shipping lines and the ship is already in Nigerian waters, but we have to pay five percent duty of the cost of that vessel before it comes".

Udofia also blamed government for not planning ahead of time before taking drastic decisions on such sensitive economic policy.

"This is not what you do over night because we are unprepared. Shipping is not like going to a market to buy a trailer, it goes beyond that. We are talking about shipping line that will be going across West and Central Africa which we don't have, and it's possibility is still in question", he concluded.

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