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Buhari reluctant to close borders, says Finance Minister



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By Richards Adeniyi

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, recently said that President Muhammadu Buhari was reluctant in approving the closure of Nigeria’s land borders with Benin Republic and Niger Republic because he was mindful of the adverse effect it would have on the economies of the neighbouring countries.

While speaking with newsmen in Washington, United States of America, Ahmed also said that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) supports Nigeria’s closure of the land borders because it understands that the action is not punitive.

The measure, according to her, was intended to restore Nigeria’s relationship with its neighbours, based on commitments made.

She said Nigeria embarked on series of engagements with the two neighbouring countries toward securing compliance to laid down rules, “but things got worse”.

“Of course, there will be economic impact on the side of our neighbours due to the border closure, that is a consequence of it. In a manner of speaking, IMF supports the border closure that we have done because they understand that the closure was not meant to be punitive. It was meant for us to restore our relationship with our neighbours back to the commitments that we made.

“The commitment that we have among these countries is that goods can come through their ports to Nigeria. They are supposed to come in sealed containers escorted to Nigeria for the Nigeria Customs Service to inspect the goods and charge them. But that is not what is happening. They allow containers to be opened, and also allow goods to be smuggled beyond the formal borders through several illegal routes,” the Minister said.

Ahmed said Nigeria would ensure that rules were obeyed “now that it had committed itself to the African Continental Free Trade Area, otherwise local industries will suffer”.

She said that a lot of discussions were ongoing between Nigeria and the affected countries toward securing their commitment to the rules governing cross-border trade.