The recent reopening of Nigeria’s land borders to neighbouring countries has continued to attract reactions from various quarters, even as some essential food items remain banned.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in August 2019 ordered the closure of the borders to curb the smuggling of goods and weapons in and out of the country.
But, on December 16, 2020, the president approved the reopening of four borders (Seme, Ilela, Maigatari, and Mfun) restricting the importation of rice, poultry, and other products.
As the border closure lingered, it took its toll on the country’s manufacturing sector amid the surging COVID-19 pandemic.
Already, local manufacturers are beset with a number of challenges like poor power supply, inadequate basic infrastructures, limited access to credit, high cost of imported raw materials, and unskilled labour.
At a recent press briefing, the President of the Association of Micro Enterprises of Nigeria, Prince Saviour Iche, lamented the border closure adversely affected businesses causing most of the local manufacturers to lose customers, whom they regularly supplied products, to competitors in neighbouring countries.
“One of my customers from Ghana who usually bought goods worth millions of naira every quarter, has found a way around how to develop the techniques of manufacturing that product.
“The border is opened now. But we have lost those customers. Nigeria being the business hub of Africa, local manufacturers could not export their products during that period of border closure,” Iche said.
According to him, the government is only paying lip service to protect farmers.
He explained, “Nigeria is not yet food sufficient for it to close its borders to neighbouring countries. Reopening the borders has not helped in lowering the prices of foodstuffs.
“Although, Nigeria has fertile soil to grow enough agricultural produce. However, the needed support is not there yet either from the government or its agencies to aid entrepreneurs.”
The AMEN president, however, called on the government across all levels to put the interests of the masses at heart, address hunger and the high cost of foodstuffs in the country.
Iche stressed that the incessant herdsmen-farmers clashes also compounded the issue as they heighten fear and insecurity.
The cost of production, he said, in the cosmetics sector had more than doubled in the past one year, pointing out that Lebanese and Indians are major importers controlling the supply of raw materials used for cosmetic products.
Speaking on the federal government’s promise of supporting businesses with COVID-19 palliative, Iche noted, “The money they (government) say is being given to entrepreneurs is not reaching us.”
He appealed to the government to remove export duties on raw materials and machinery as an incentive to aid local manufacturing.