Following the directive by President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday that the country's land borders should be reopened, experts and stakeholders have enumerated the gains of the government's policy decision.
The four borders approved for immediate reopening 16 months after they were closed to all commercial activities with neighbouring nations include Seme (South-west), Ilela (North-west), Maitagari (North-west), and Mfun (South-south).
The minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, disclosed this to State House correspondents after the federal executive council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the presidential villa.
President Buhari joined the council meeting from his country home, Daura.
The minister, however, said restriction on the importation of some commodities, including rice and other products, would continue to be enforced.
She said, "I am here to just report that His Excellency, the president, approved the recommendations of the committee that I chaired with the minister of Trade and Investment as member, minister of Interior as member, minister of Foreign Affairs as member, National Security
Adviser as member and Comptroller General of Customs.
"This committee was mandated to review and advise on the reopening of
the Nigerian borders and after recommendations, the president approved the reopening of four land borders namely: Seme in the South-west
part of the country, Ilela in the North-west part of the country, Maitagariin the North-west part of the country and Mfun in the South-south part of the country.
"So, these four land borders will be reopened immediately while
the remaining borders are directed to be reopened on or before 31st of
"Mr. President has also directed on the reopening of the borders that
while others are being reopened, the ban on importation of rice, poultry and other banned products still subsists and will be
implemented by border patrol team.
On his part, minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi
Adebayo, said the border closure had given the security agencies an
opportunity to access the problems at the borders particularly with
regards to smuggling.
He said, "As you are all aware before the border closures, a lot of petroleum products were being smuggled out from the borders to West African countries and the border closure has created a situation that has tactically stopped that, they have been able to calculate the
amount of petroleum products being smuggled out by calculating the
amount that is being lifted now compared to what was being lifted
He stated that the issue of smuggling of rice to the country has reduced drastically, saying "we are hoping that our agencies will be
able to sustain that, so also is the issue of poultry smuggling.
"Also very important is the issue of importation of small arms and
weapons into the country that also has stopped," the minister added.
He expressed hope that the security agencies would ensure that
smuggling of small arms and weapons doesn't reoccur again noting that
"These are the issues that caused the closure of the borders in the
first place and we have been able to put a stop to them," he noted.
Speaking on the development, an importer, Jude Anozie, said government left it too late before reopening the land borders, saying goods worth over N300 billion have perished in the last one year".
He said the federal government decided to reopen the borders because
of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which will take off
in January next year, saying that if the government had failed to reopen
the border before the implementation of the trade agreement, the country would have been at a disadvantage.
He said, "Aside that, ECOWAS could have sanctioned Nigeria for failing to reopen the border when the Free Trade agreement implementation takes off. But we appreciate the efforts of every stakeholder who mounts pressure on the government to reopen the borders.
"The negative effects of the closing of the border are more than the
results. Do you know how many businesses and lives that have been lost
in the last one year? I lost my clearing agents at Seme border due to
the closure of the border. But we thank God that the government is
taking the right decision now but it was too late before they realized what we have been telling them".
Similarly, the director-general, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Muda Yusuf said that it was a welcome development. "It would be beneficial to the economy and in consonance with the recently ratified AFCFTA," he said.
He noted that many small businesses depend on cross border trade for
survival, saying many manufacturers also leverage the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) to boost their businesses, and that many of them also source their raw materials from countries in the sub region.
Yusuf said, "There is need to strengthen the border policing and management mechanisms to avoid a relapse into the conditions that led to the closure in the first place. The biggest challenge with the border management is an institutional issue. We need to demand
accountability from the institutions that have the responsibility for
border policing and management."
Also, chairman of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANCLA), Seme border chapter, Bisiriyu Fanu, commended the president on the decision, noting however that it was coming late.
He said, "For the fact that it is very late, we still thank God for him
to make the federal government reopen the land borders because if
the government didn't open the border, there is nothing we can do. We
appreciate the federal government."
On how the border closure had affected people living around the border areas in the last one year, Fanu said whatever that has happened before now doesn't matter anymore because the borders have been reopened, saying that businesses and activities will return around the borders.
Also reacting, the president of National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Mr Lucky Amiwero said the federal government has taken the right decision by reopening the land borders, adding that the border is a legal entry point, just like seaports and airports.
He said, "The goods coming from the borders are not usually smuggling goods. Although some of them are smuggled, the majority of them are
cleared normally. I believe that the decision the government has taken
is the right one but it came so late because a lot of people has lost
"Nigerian importers have suffered with the decision because we are yet to see the essence and results of closing the border. But, otwithstanding, it is never too late than never."
According to him, the kind of trade going on through the borders can survive following the reopening because Nigeria is a contracting party
to African Continental Free Trade Agreement, ECOWAS Treaty on Common External Tariff and others.
He said, "You don't close borders; what you do is to go into mutual
administrative assistance, which America and every other country have
done. What the government has done in reopening the border is commendable but it is quite too late because a lot of people have incurred losses in the whole exercise. Many goods had perished and people were not properly informed about the closure."
Shippers Kick As Haulage Cost Rises From N300,000 To
Meanwhile, Shippers have condemned the high cost of haulage at Lagos port as truckers within one week jerked up their costs of moving a container from the Tin Can Island Port, Lagos to any other part of the city by 50% from N1.2million to N1.8million.
The truckers alleged that extortion by security officials on the port
access road, which has continued unabated, is responsible for the
Barely a year ago, cost of trucking from the Tin Can Port was about N300,000.
The haulage cost from Tin Can Port is now three times the cost of
haulage from the Apapa Port, which has remained at N600,000 since the
beginning of this year.
Many truck operators attribute the escalating cost of haulage services
at the Tin Can Port to extortion by security operators including NPA
security officials, police and the presidential task team on Apapa
Many truck drivers, who spoke with journalists weekend, said they pay
more than N200,000 per truck to gain access to the port.
However, several promises by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and
the Nigerian Shippers' Council (NSC) to curtail extortion on the port
access road and embark on repair of the roads to enable free flow of
traffic have remained unfulfilled.
Last week, NPA, in a press statement promised to curtail "rent
seeking" on the port access road after the Maritime Workers Union of
Nigeria (MWUN) threatened to go on strike due to the harrowing
experience suffered by its members in accessing the port.
Also on Wednesday last week, the House of Representatives asked the
federal government to disband the Presidential Task Team on Apapa
gridlock, saying the task team has outlived its usefulness, was
participating in extortion and contributing to the congestion of the
The lawmakers also urged government and other relevant security
agencies to immediately put an end to extortion of truck drivers by
their operatives on the port access roads.
"Concerned that in addition to the poor condition of the port access
roads, extortion by officials of the Nigerian Ports Authority security
department, Police, and the Presidential Task Force remain the major
cause of unending gridlock along the port access roads, with
stakeholders such as importers, clearing agents and truck owners
alleging that they are forced to pay as much as N250,000 to N280,000
per truck for entries and exits to the ports.
"These apparatus milking the stakeholders at the expense of the nation
should be held accountable, while the task force, which has
demonstrated it has outlived its usefulness, should be disbanded
forthwith," one of the lawmakers, Leke Abejide, who sponsored a motion of "urgent national importance" on the issue, said.
Hon. Abejide said that businesses, commuters, and residents along the
access roads, "see hell on a daily basis as they are subjected to
nuisance, pollution, and emissions to the environment".
According to him, due to the challenges of inaccessibility to the ports in Lagos, it now takes an average of 60 days to turnaround a vessel as against the five days it used to be.
At present, no fewer than 40 ships calling at the Tin Can Island Port are stranded at anchorage due to lack of space to discharge new cargoes at terminals in the port, as cargo evacuation from the port has been hampered by multiple toll points mounted by security
operatives including men of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) security department, Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Army and officials
of the Presidential Task Team on Apapa gridlock.
The situation has negatively affected port operation as cargo delivery
has been considerably slowed down, leading to astronomical rise in
haulage and shipping cost, thereby fuelling inflation in the country.
Speaking on the development, the managing director, Port & Cargo
Handling Services, John Jenkins, on Tuesday expressed frustration over
the near total collapse of cargo delivery along the Mile 2/Tin Can
Island port access road.
He said, "Transfer of containers by road is almost not in existence
because the road is blocked and you can't get containers out. The
problem is the road. If the problem of the road is solved, the problem
inside the port will be solved. Before we never had block stack
containers because the cargo used to move freely but not anymore now.
"There are in excess of 40 vessels at anchorage. At Port & Cargo, we
could only bring seven alongside now. Last month, we kept one of the
MSC vessels there for four days because they could not discharge and
this month, we have kept vessels for more than two days already
because we don't know where to put the containers.
"I have worked in this port industry all my life; I have never seen
roads like this. We could form a palliative solution. We are not
happy; we got people losing their means of livelihood every day because
of the poor condition of the road."
Also speaking, chairman, Association of Maritime Truck Owners
(AMATO), Chief Remi Ogungbemi, said, "what is happening at Tin Can is
a situation of the more you look, the less you see. Business is still
going on as usual and the Task Team has refused to leave because they
are benefiting from the chaos. They have formed a cartel and if you
are not in that group, they will not pass your truck no matter who you
A clearing agent operating at the Tin Can Island Port, Ojo Akintoye,
said there are more than four road blocks between Tin Can Island Port,
first and second gates, set up by the Presidential Task Team, Police
and NPA officials where each truck is expected to part with money
before being allowed passage into the port.
He said, "The extortion by NPA (security officials) and other security
agencies who claim to be controlling traffic on the road is the cause
of the impediment we are experiencing daily along the port access
"From first gate to second gate, we have about four road blocks
mounted by the security agents and the trucks must part with money
before they can move."
The national vice president, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs
Agents (ANLCA), Prince Kayode Farinto called for the disbandment of
the Presidential Task Team, which he said has become "a money-making
According to him, clearing agents lose an average of N300million
weekly to illegal collection by NPA security officials, Police and
members of the Presidential Task Team, adding that to enter the port,
truck operators pay as high as N280,000 to security operatives on the