Nigeria’s Border opening: Implications and Effects

Executive Summary

The Government of Nigeria (GoN), in August 2019, announced the partial closure of Nigeria’s land borders at Seme, Illela, Maigatari, and Mfun, which are shared with three (3) other West African Nations; Benin Republic, Republic of Niger, and Cameroun respectively. The closure was also extended to its borders with the Republic of Chad. The GoN explained that the border closure was a move in response to several phenomena, including the unbridled illegal importation and smuggling of products and commodities, especially from Benin Republic through the Seme border. The cross-border trafficking of persons and the smuggling of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW), amongst other reasons.

The border closure lasted for 17 months, and in December 2020, the government announced a re-opening of the four land borders in an unexpected move. Several domestic and foreign factors resulted in the re-opening of the borders, including pressures from domestic manufacturers, rising food inflation, push back from ECOWAS member states, Nigeria’s assent to the AfCFTA, etc. However, the re-opening comes with its fair share of implications, including the possible continuation of smuggling activities resulting in the inability of local industry competitiveness (which is negative), a move towards more integration, and more goodwill from regional partners (both positive).

In light of this, there is a need for more proactiveness from the government. The government needs to champion the creation of a trade dispute settlement mechanism both within ECOWAS and AfCFTA to deal with future issues such as those leading to the border closure. The Customs and entire public service responsible for policy implementation should be reformed to be more effective and result-driven. Finally, economic diversification should be given top priority alongside ramping up industrial capacity.

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