Nigeria Ends Border Closure After 16 Months, Counts Costs

By Bashir Olanrewaju

Nigeria opened four border posts to end a 16-month blockade of its frontiers that frustrated neighbour’s and citizens alike, disrupting regional trade.

The reopening of the country’s frontier  at Seme and Illela in the southwest, Magatari in the north and Mount in the southeast, will be followed by the reopening of other border-crossing points across on December 31  Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed told reporters on Wednesday in Abuja.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s government shut the land borders in August last year, initially citing large-scale smuggling of rice and poultry to the detriment of local farmers, and later added weapons and drugs smuggling it said was fueling insecurity.

The disruptions that followed affected food supplies from neighbouring countries and helped drive Nigerian inflation close to a three-year high.

The ban on imports of poultry products and rice will remain in place to be enforced by customs and immigration officials,  according to the government.

The border restrictions in violation free movement protocols Nigeria signed to under the Economic Community of West African States, upset the country’s neighbours. Regional trade, more than 60 percent of which is controlled by Nigeria, also suffered, with manufacturers supplying regional markets by land particularly affected.

The borders are reopening in time for the start of the African Continental Free Trade Area on January 1, to create one of the world’s biggest free-trade areas.