Francis Ezem

Manufacturing companies in Nigeria including Cadbury Nigeria plc., Unilever plc., the Dangote Group and Nestle plc., among several others are currently counting their losses, having lost in excess of N600billion in the last six months over the decision of the Federal Government to shut the nation’s land borders with West African neighbours.

Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had sometime in August last year announced a total closure of Nigeria’s land borders especially with the Republic of Benin and Niger Republic, citing inflow of light weapons, gross abuse of the Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme ETLS, massive inflow of foreign bandits, a development that hampered movement of import and export goods.

Competent sources close to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria MAN, umbrella body for all the major real sector operators hinted that the embattled companies did everything within their powers to convince the government to reopen the borders as it was negatively affecting their businesses, especially in terms of shipping consignments to their West African market all to no avail.

The sources also noted that these manufacturing giants had to switch to exporting their consignments through the air and seaports in order to retain the markets, which in addition to being more expensive, takes a lot of time, which has reduced profitability and increased cost.

It was gathered that the problem is worsened by the fact that these firms cannot increase the prices of their products since they are in competition with other products from other countries, thus loosing over N600bn due to the new mode of shipment.

Investigations showed that hopes that the closure would be lifted soon  were dashed when at a recent stakeholders meeting in Abuja attended by the top management of the Nigeria Customs Service including the Comptroller General, Hameed Ali, as the manufacturing firms were urged to bear with the government, as the borders would remain shut.

“Before now, it was easier and more cost effective for our members to move their export goods to neighbouring West African countries through the land borders under the ETLS but with the closure of these borders, we are left with no choice than to ship them through air and seaports, which you know is more expensive and more time consuming”, he said.

Recall that the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government had at the just concluded extraordinary session of ECOWAS leaders convened on the sidelines of the 33rd African Union AU Summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, constituted a committee headed by President Roch Marc Christian Kabore of Burkina Faso to review and report to it on Nigeria’s land border closure with her neighbours.

Nigeria’s Foreign Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, had also told journalists after the session that the meeting attended by President Buhari and chaired by ECOWAS Chairman, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic, also discussed West Africa’s new single currency, the Eco and the situation in Guinea Bissau after the presidential election.

On border closure, Onyeama said: ‘”The President of Burkina Faso is charged with undertaking a full study of the situation, make a report and then we take it from there.”

Asked when the report will be presented to ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, he said, ‘”As soon as possible, there are no timelines. But he is supposed to start very quickly, study the situation from all the affected countries and present his report.

On the Eco currency, Onyeama said: “Nothing has changed in respect of Nigeria’s position” adding that Nigeria’s position was that most of the countries have not the convergence criteria, therefore there has to be an extension of time on the takeoff of the single currency.

On Guinea Bissau, he said ECOWAS leaders recognised that there was an appeal of the presidential election result and they were waiting for the Supreme Court decision on the matter.