The 28th of February saw me glued to my seat at the conference convened by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) in collaboration with NextierSPD and Young Professionals in Policy & Development. The parley was to examine the implications of the closing and re-opening of Nigeria's borders. Some of the participants are:
*Dr. Daniel Mann - Country Director, FES
*Dr. Ndubuisi Nwokolo - Partner/CEO NextierSPD
*Prof. William Fawole -Keynote Speaker
*Ms. Raheemat Momodu - ECOWAS
*Dr. Dayo Oluyemi-Kusa - Independent Consultant/Conflict Transformation Expert
*Dr. Chris Kwaja - Modibo Adamawa University
*Dr. Efem Ubi - Discussant
Prof. William Fawole set the tone for the discourse with his insightful paper: 'People vs policy - Border opening in Nigeria: Implications & effects'. He noted that Nigeria has one of the most extensive borders in Africa, making it exceedingly difficult to effectively patrol. Quoting Prof. Wole Soyinka (Nigeria's Nobel laureate), 'Boundaries sliced the same ethnic group into different countries'. He then wondered whether there were any substantive gains from the border closure. His verdict was that he doubted if there were any positive gains.
Nigeria has been dubbed one of the most dangerous nations on the planet! Nigeria has consistently under-funded foreign policy. The foreign policy budget is number 15 on the budget allocation list! Fawole asserted that our neighbours are bitter that Nigeria's internal insecurity problems are causing them harm. Nigeria needs more 'skillful diplomacy' in this regard. The Rice Millers' Association says since the opening of the borders, there has been an unprecedented influx of rice at the borders - millions of bags of rice are off-loaded daily. This situation has made nonsense of the plan to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production.
Closer monitoring of the origin of goods is germane, if Nigeria is to effectively police her borders. Corruption seems to have hindered positive outcomes in this regard. The paradox that's rather inexplicable is that insecurity was at a higher level during the border closure!
In my intervention, I pointed out the fact that Nigeria needs value added to all her export, starting with oil, in order to get higher value for her commodities. I also said that policy somersault is the bane of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Nigeria. No investor wants to put her/his money in a country where policies change like underwear! No investor wants to lose hard earned money in an economically unstable clime!
What then is to be done?
*Nigeria should assess the global value chain and appropriately fit herself in for maximum returns on investment.
*Policies are not miracles, they require deliberate action. We should put appropriate policies in place, while refraining from changing them at the drop of the hat.
*We should be aware that borders could be conceptualised in a dual fashion - Physical borders (as indicated in maps) and imaginary borders, when we take cognisance of our kith and kin on the other side of our borders - in neighbouring countries.
*Although population is often said to be an economic asset, a poor citizenry, like Nigeria's may be an economic liability!
*Regional integration at the sub-regional level, via ECOWAS, should remain of concern to Nigeria. But Nigeria should stop carrying the burden of ECOWAS. Each member state should contribute equally!
The final verdict was that there were no significant benefits from the border closure. We are watching out for the benefits of the re-opening of the borders.
*The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) aims to support/boost intra-African trade au.int/en/videos/2019.../
*Buhari: Border closure failed to stop smuggling of illegal arms into Nigeria thecable.ng
*Tightening loose grip: Border control in Nigeria nextierspd.com