Emerging from a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, said that the nation’s borders remain closed unless countries allowing their ports to be used to smuggle goods into Nigeria agree on what goods come into their ports.
He said in a chat with State House correspondents that the border closure has worked in favour of Nigeria as it has enabled rice farmers and poultry producers to dispose of their stock.
According to the apex bank chief, the borders were shut in the first place because such farmers and producers complained that their businesses were being hampered by smuggled commodities.
Emefiele said: “We are not saying that the borders should be closed in perpetuity, but that before the borders are reopened, there must be concrete engagements with countries that are involved in using their ports and countries as landing ports for bringing in goods that are smuggled into Nigeria.
“That engagement must be held so that we agree on the basis under which: what are the kinds of products that they can land in their countries because if those products they land in their countries are meant for their own local consumption, it is understandable.
“But the fact that those products are landed in their countries and then transshipped of smuggled into Nigeria is something that I am sure you all agree as Nigerians we should not allow happening because it undermines our economic policy, it undermines our own desire to make sure that industries are alive and jobs are created in Nigeria.”
Explaining the reason for the border closure, the CBN Governor explained: “You will all recall that in November 2015 President Muhammadu Buhari, the Central Bank and some state governors went to Kebbi state to launch the Wet Season Rice Farming.
“Since then, we have seen an astronomical growth in the number of farmers who have been going into rice farming and our paddy production has gone up also quite exponentially.
“Between 2015 and also now, we have also seen an astronomical rise in the number of companies, corporate and individuals that are setting up mills, integrated mills and even small mills in the various areas. And the central bank and the federal ministry of agriculture and rural development has been the centre of, not just only encouraging the production of rice in Nigeria, but also funding these farmers by giving them loans to buy seedlings, fertilisers or some of the herbicides that they need for their rice production.
“You will all be recalled that we have been embarking on a programme where we are saying if you are involved in the business of smuggling or dumping of rice in the country, we close your account in the banking industry. Although that is coming very effectively.
“Recently, and this is the absolute truth, about two weeks before the border closure, the chairman of the Rice Processors Association, incidentally, he owns Umza Rice in Kano, he called me and said that all the rice millers and processors are carrying in their warehouses nothing less than 25,000 metric tons of milled rice in their warehouses, that this rice has been unsold because of the smuggling and dumping of rice through Republic of Benin and other border posts that we have in the country, and that he would want us to do something about it.
“Secondly, we also have members of the Poultry Association of Nigeria who also complained that they have thousands of crates of eggs that they could not sell together with even some of the processed chickens that they could not sell also arising from the problem of smuggling and dumping of poultry products into Nigeria.
“I was told also that after some meetings that were held in addition to those engagements that we (CBN) also held with the president, the border was closed subsequently.
“A week after the borders were closed, the same rice millers association called to tell us that all the rice that they had in their warehouses have all been sold.
“Indeed, a lot of people have been depositing money in their accounts and they have even been telling them ‘please hold on, don’t even pay money yet until we finished processing your rice.’
“The Poultry Associations have also come to say that they have sold all their eggs, they have sold all their processed chickens and that demand is rising.
“So, when you asked, what is the benefit, the benefit of the border closure on the economy of Nigeria, I just used two products – poultry and rice. The benefit is that it has helped to create jobs for our people, it has helped to bring the integrated rice milling that we have in the country back into business again and they are making money.
“Our rural communities are bubbling because there are activities because rice farmers are able to sell their paddy. The poultry business is also doing well, and also maize farmers who produce maize from which feeds are produced are also doing business. These are the benefits.”