Members of the Arewa Economic Forum (AEF) have raised concerns about the immense economic toll caused by the ongoing closure of the northern borders connected to Niger.
The traders lamented that the closure results in staggering weekly losses amounting to over N13 billion.
Calling on the Federal Government to reconsider the border closure, the AEF emphasized that more than 2,000 Nigeria-bound containers remain stranded as a consequence. Ibrahim Shehu Dandakata, Chairman of AEF, addressed the media during a briefing held in Abuja on Sunday.
Dandakata highlighted the dire situation faced by businesses in the northern region, with many collapsing and the remaining struggling to survive.
The negative economic impact of the border closure exacerbates poverty and unemployment levels across the region and the nation as a whole.
Dandakata underscored the fact that Niger Republic, despite its vast land area, has a relatively small population of around 25 million, with a substantial portion dependent on cross-border trade for their livelihoods.
“We urge the federal government to consider our plight and that of Nigerians in general, and at least reopen borders that are not directly linked to Niger Republic,” Dandakata asserted. He suggested reopening the Maje-Illo border in Kebbi State, which connects to Benin Republic.
This alternative could facilitate the movement and clearance of goods, provided that Customs duties are authorized to be paid there.
AEF’s Chairman highlighted the importance of diplomacy in addressing the challenges posed by the military juntas in Niger Republic.
He cautioned against resorting to war, given the extensive socio-economic implications such actions would have across the West and Central Africa sub-region.
“We need peace so that trade resumes on that corridor,” Dandakata emphasized. He brought to attention the significant trade flow between Nigeria and Niger, with formal trade valued at approximately N171 billion and informal trade at around N515 billion.
The closure disproportionately affects the movement of goods such as sheep, goats, and cows consumed in Nigeria, which predominantly come from Niger.
Dandakata cautioned against further distress in the already unstable West and Central Africa regions.
He urged the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to focus on the military junta and their associates, rather than harming innocent traders.
The AEF appealed for the border between Kebbi and Benin Republic to be reopened, recognizing the potential dire consequences if trade disruptions persist.
Hamza Saleh, a member of the Northwest Licensed Customs Agents, joined the chorus of concern, lamenting the detrimental impact on perishable goods trapped in containers.
Saleh highlighted the urgent need for solutions, particularly referring to the Maje-Illo border in Kebbi as a potential alternative.
The plea from the AEF and concerned traders underscores the far-reaching consequences of border closures, emphasizing the importance of carefully considering economic, humanitarian, and regional stability factors in policy decisions.
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