Border closure bites Niger Delta businesses, exporters – Trade expert

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* Perfume maker pleads for window to export legitimate goods by road

By Codratus Godson

An international trade expert, Ofon Udofia, has pointed to the hardship building up on businesses in the south-south. This is as Ghana has pulled out of the Port Harcourt International Trade Fair on account of lack of access to Nigeria.

Udofia, who works with Institute of Export Operations and Management, and is a member of the trade group of the Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce told media that the border closure affects the south-south region seriously.

The expert who is also a member of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), made it clear that Seme is not the only border town in Nigeria, citing Ikaun and other Cameroun axis.

Udofia said the FG should have looked at it very critically. “It has taken longer time than expected. The international treaties Nigeria signed (such as Bamako Convention and World Trade Organization) stipulate when border can be closed and how long. It is having negative effects. We too export. It is very big issue. If nothing is done, it will bounce back.”

He said; “The government says its because of rice smuggling, don’t we have the Customs to do their work? The Customs should be put in order and not to close the border totally. The citizens are suffering, prices are going up. There is evidence we are not self-sufficient in a number of things especially rice.

“I am in support of strengthening local production like empowering the farmers, but not to close the border totally. The ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Treaty could be in a mess and we are the leader of the ECOWAS and we are not showing good example.

“If the presidency says other countries are violating the treaties, we are also guilty. If you go to Seme, you find tens of checkpoints on the route. Even in Nigeria, you find 27 checkpoints from Seme to Mile 2 in Lagos. We have more checkpoints on our route than from Seme to Burkina Faso.

“We have trade relationship with West African countries. You can work with them to resolve issues instead of closing the borders. Dangote has trucks and cement companies in neighouring countries. We are not an island onto ourselves. We must trade with others.”

The PHCCIMA trade fair committee chairman, Mike Elechi, disclosed that Ghana has pulled out of the event because of the border closure. He said Ghana could not cross to participate in the just concluded Lagos International Trade Fair and thus saw no need to participate in the PH event.

A perfumery in Port Harcourt has also been hit by the closure as the CEO disclosed that her Ghana branch has shut down due to difficulty in getting products to Ghana. She said the cost of going by air would wipe off any profit margin. She too pleaded for a window to allow legitimate export to cross the borders.

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