Former President John Dramani Mahama has appealed to Nigeria’s President Mohammadu Buhari to open the country’s borders.
Mr Mahama described the decision by Nigerian authorities to close their borders to Ghana and other African countries as worrying.
The former President noted the decision to close the borders as a check against smuggling is harmful to the ECOWAS agenda.
Speaking at the 7th Real News Magazine Anniversary Lecture in Lagos Nigeria, Mr Mahama said “The unilateral closure of the Nigeria border since August is a very worrying development for the growth of free trade in the ECOWAS sub-region. One can understand the harmful effects of the unbridled smuggling of goods on the growth of local production. But it is problematic that sub-regional economic activity and trade should suffer because of domestic institutional weaknesses.”
He also charged Nigerian authorities to strengthen institutions mandated to check the smuggling of goods.
“Nigeria must invest in strengthening its institutions and systems that are responsible for the importation of illegal or prohibited goods. The total closure especially the Benin border is having a toll on many SMEs especially in Togo, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire that rely on inter-country trade for survival. Businesses in Nigeria that also rely on supplies from this area are also suffering. With the signing of the joint task force agreement within Nigeria and her neighbours, I want to appeal to Nigeria to open up its borders so that economic activities can resume” he appealed.
The Nigerian government in August 2019 ordered the partial shut down of its borders with Benin.
Then in September, an order was issued for a complete shut down of all of the country’s borders with other African countries including Ghana.
Authorities said the decision was to prohibit the smuggling of goods such as rice and also check criminals, threats to the country’s security and economy.
The decision to shut down the borders has left many traders stranded and their businesses dire.
The Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) has lamented the impact of the border closure.
According to them, their goods have been locked up at the borders for months.
Ghana’s leading beverage manufacturer, Kasapreko is said to have lost over $2 million as a result of the closure.
A government delegation led by the deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Charles Owiredu met Nigerian authorities on the need to re-open the border.
Government assured the Ghanaian business community that steps were being taken to allow Ghanaians access through the border.
After the meeting with the Nigerian authorities, a memo directed that the border closure be extended till January 31.
The memo was signed by Nigeria’s Comptroller, Victor David Dimka, dated November 1, 2019, and sent to all officers at the borders.
Despite talks to get the Nigeria authorities to re-open the border, the memo indicated that the closure has been beneficial to Nigeria.
“despite the overwhelming success of the Operation particularly, the security and economic benefits to the nation, a few strategic objectives are yet to be achieved. Against this background, Mr President has approved an extension of the Exercise to 31st January 2020” the memo read.
Ghana-Nigeria trade war
Even before Nigeria closed her borders, Ghanaian traders particularly spare parts dealers had been closing down shops owned by foreigners, particularly Nigerians.
Members of the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) maintained, the laws of the country bars foreigners from engaging in retail business but government has failed to enforce the GIPC law.
They have issued government a final warning to implement the GIPC law to flush out foreigners who are engaging in retail business.
Since the closure of the Nigerian border, GUTA has demanded that government retaliates.