Lai Mohammed, minister of information, says the benefits of closing the land borders are more than the disadvantage of rising inflation.
Mohammed said this shortly after Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, said the closure of the country’s land borders is contributing to rising inflation.
Last week, the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released figures that showed that the consumer price index, which measures inflation, rose to 11.61% in October, an increase of 0.36 percentage points compared to 11.24% recorded in September.
That was the exact inflation rate recorded in May 2018 when the country was recovering from the recession and high inflation rate.
But Mohammed said the federal government closed the borders because it wants neighbouring countries to implement the different memoranda of understanding guiding border operations, as well as protocol of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on transit goods.
“The border closure frankly speaking is what we needed to do and we had to do it. We cannot continue to subsidise the rest of West Africa. And the benefits for border closure for me, I think, far surpass the very little increase in inflation,” he said.
“Even yesterday there was a meeting between the various actors. I know that the Comptrollers of Customs of all the three countries involved met yesterday. As we speak today, we have not reached any agreement but channels have been deployed.
“Everything is going on but our insistence is that we must all respect the ECOWAS protocol on transit goods, we must respect the various MOUs we entered into, so that there will be freedom of movement of goods from one country to the other provided those goods are manufactured in the states that are exporting it.”
Mohammed said the border closure has contributed positively to the country, adding that up to 30% of fuel consumption has been saved up.
He said the development has led to reduction of smuggled ammunition, and also increased revenue generation through import duties.
“We have been able to save about 30 percent from our fuel consumption which means that over time we have been subsidising the fuel consumption of other countries,” he said.
“Within the last three months, we have been able to increase by 15 percent duties collected from Import. Within the same period and this is very important, we have been able to drastically reduced the volumes of arms and ammunition that have been coming into the country through smuggling, ditto with illicit drugs.”
The minister said Nigeria is demanding an implementation of the ECOWAS protocol to reopen its borders.
He said the country can no longer play the big brother role at the expense of national security.
“All Nigeria is saying, please let’s respect the protocol on transit. ECOWAS set up a protocol on transit goods which is very simple, if a container meant for Nigeria is dropped in Cotonou, the authorities in Benin Republic should escort the container to customs in Seme border, and that way proper duty will be levied and will be paid,” he said.
“So, what we have done and it has maximum effect is ask our neigbours to respect the protocol on transit, if they do that the borders will be opened. But you cannot continue to play the big brother at the expense of national security at the expense of our national economy.”