3 months Border Closure: Economic success only in media


By Gbenga Oloniniran

It should go without dispute that the rights to self determination for
any country cannot be overemphasised, like it should be for
individuals, it is one of such values of democracy and freedom. As an
‘independent’ entity, Nigeria can choose to close or open its borders
at reasonable will. In the interests of the nation as they claim,
Nigeria may take such decision but in wisdom and sincerity. In
sincerity, it may do so for the benefits of improving her economy and
local production; in wisdom, it must know when to do it without
neglecting adequate provisions to manage the effects. Nevertheless, if
the interest is genuine, we may never have to bother so much on border
closure too. (We will come back to this).
Three months since the border closure, we have seen the Central Bank
of Nigeria’s Governor (Godwin Emefiele) jubilate in the media over
what he described as positive results of the border closure,
especially how the step has successfully boosted ‘economy in the
country’ and more especially for ‘the farmers’. What is not clear is
whether this economy has indeed been boosted for all the people or
just for the farmers, then which farmers? If it is for the people, we
would expect that by now the town should have been-painted with
celebrations and not just a one man celebration as of Emefiele. If the
economy has indeed been boosted for the farmers, perhaps we should
rather think those farmers are the Obasanjos’ who run the big Ota
Farms and in other places; the Maizube farms of Abubakar Abdusalami or
the Sebore farms of Muritala Nyeko, and their political likes. We
should not forget the Umza of Kano (Kingpin of Rice Processors
Association of Nigeria, those of whom we should best regard as the
Emefiele calibers and political farmers. Just as many of these
political farmers may get the largest share of budget earmarked for
agriculture, the likes of Emefiele led CBN would not hesitate to
disburse it to them too. These cabals are the country. Not quite long
has Emefiele expressly stated, as written in Punch, that Umza had
since called to inform him on how they needed to sell the thousand
scores of rice in their warehouses, and of course border closure was
the way forward. It’s a “padi padi policy and arrangement”.
The poor and larger category of farmers are still very much stranded
with the same age long barriers to productivity, that is, lack of
funds and machineries, infestations, bad roads and other challenges
while the Emefiele farming gang are getting richer on the poverty of
the other many average farmers.
The people really have to start telling their stories themselves and
tackle misrepresentations from the ruling elite whose political
policies are more successful in the media than in the obtainable
reality. Nigeria is too large a place with too many poor people, and
to use the privileged rich as parameter for successful economy is a
fraudulent representation of the Nigerian people. With bag of the so
called Nigerian rice selling around 26 000 naira, while the foreign
rice which we may pretend not to know how it still enters the country,
perhaps through “influential smuggling” now, is selling between 28,000
naira to 30,000 naira. Apparently, we are in for a big mess, because
not even the implementation of 30,000 naira minimum wage can suffice
for this terrible hike. Labor might have to begin to push for higher
minimum wage. Encouraging local economy cannot be independent of an
encouraging local purchasing power. Of a possible fact too, we should
not be caught unaware if this is another way of getting at the people,
beyond the outrageous VATs already imposed. Also, why the people
prefer foreign rice to locally made rice a question still begging for
answers and a connection to the challenges of our farmers.
Simple outlook on these events tells us that in order to fight
smuggling and encourage local production (local economy), closing the
borders first is merely putting cart before the horse. A robust
funding and environmental enabling policies in our major sectors would
have aided our local production and by extension would chase out
importations and smuggling. By now, perhaps we could have been
discussing how to accommodate immigrants and not sudden border closure
that has neither benefited the local mass of people nor the
international trading counterparts. Any serious government will
produce before closing borders against importation. The simple
exposure of this insincerity is why borders have not been closed
against importation of petroleum and other products if indeed we are
attempting to sustain local economy. Building local production is
however yet to find an abode in the country where the majority of our
resources and sectors are privatised in the hands of a few cabals.
Olusegun Obasanjo has recently gone to media to campaign
diversification of economy to agriculture because Oil has failed.
Indeed, agricultural economy would likely fail again as it once did,
and just like the fate suffered by petroleum, we are only diversifying
into the pockets of some cabals whose interests are always represented
in the policies of CBN, Customs and other agencies.
The success of border closure on the economy has remained in the media
while the economy of the real people worsens with visible realities.
If not in other ways, some Nigerians know how much they now spend on a
spoon of rice at “Mama Put joint.” Protesting the small quantity of
rice sold to you by mama is a futile effort when you remember the cost
of a bowl of rice in the market. The food seller does not even look
your face as she sells. Her gestures show that she equally laments
too. We are in this mess together! Only the Emefieles and the ruling
elite are spared!
Nigeria is still a place where its leaders are playing game of chess
on the backs of the people. Our resources are the shares they bet
with, and the rule of the game (policies) favor the highest bidders.
When the people are able to rise and raise heads, all their little
games are over.
*Oloniniran can be reached at gbengaoloniniran@gmail.com

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