By Gift Olivia Samuel, The Sight News
ABUJA: The Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele alongside stakeholders in the rice, poultry, steel and autombile sectors, have advised the Federal Government to sustain the border closure, to ensure that opportunities are created to boost employment, grow output and keep the industries alive.
The industry players who made this known on the sidelines of the Monetary Policy Committee meeting on Tuesday in Abuja, includes farmers, processors, and aggregators of all kinds of commodities.
They all agreed that the sustained border closure has led to employment creation as well as awakening of industries which were hitherto dead, due to smuggling activities through the country’s porous borders.
Recall that in August 2019, the Nigerian government closed its border to tackle illicit trade and to strengthen security in the country.
Speaking to the The Sight News on the impact of the closure, the Chairman Rice Processors Association of Nigeria, Mohammed Abubakar, said the impact of the closure is enormous, as today, there are more than 40 integrated Rice Mills that can be compared with others worldwide.
In his words, “The production of paddy rice is in millions today. Before the closure of border, there were complains about rice being stocked in warehouses but today, there are no rice. Mills that have closed before are back into operation. The multiplier effect is enormous and the quality of rice is fresh for everyone to eat, but smuggled rice are old and not healthy for human consumption”.
On the capacity to feed the nation in the coming festive season, he said that their combined capacity is 1.8 million metric tonnes per annum and so, Nigerians should not bother about scarcity, as he assured Nigerians that there will be rice in the festive season.
Throwing more light on the high price of the local rice, he said that people took advantage of the scarcity when the border was newly closed, noting however that there is now rice and the price has crashed to N14,000 in factories and distributors are selling for N16,000.
“People have to understand the policy, the closure is the best thing that has happened to the country as the quantum of employment is enormous. The issue should not be reversed.
“The government should not go back on a situation that rice will be imported, it is very dangerous to our country. We have to put all hands on deck and support the CBN and government to get out of the issue, in few years, it will be history”, he ended.
Also speaking, Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, the President of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RFAN), reiterated that the border closure has helped farmers to sell the bumper harvest they received, noting that if the border hadn’t been closed, the farmers would not have been able to exhaust the paddy produced for the next one and half year.
On the capacity to respond for the next planting season, he said the farmers are getting ready for the dry season, with the help of the Development Finance of the CBN, for one and half million farmers to benefit from the dry season farming.
For his part, the President, National Poultry Association of Nigeria, Ezekiel Ibrahim, said that, “Before border closure, over one million tonnes of poultry was imported but now, production has increased to 70 percent”.
While noting that the Nigerian Poultry industry is the strongest in Africa and is capable of servicing the Nigerian population, he added that there is no scarcity of poultry and cautioned people against blackmail.
“There is enough to supply the market, and we are looking at how to improve and get facilities for people to increase their farms and help universities go into research”, he stated.
STEEL AND METAL
Speaking on the impact of the closure on steel and metal production, the Chairman of Basic Metal under the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Dr. Yusuf Kamorudeen, noted that the border closure has given life to all the dead companies in Nigeria, adding that all their warehouses are full.
He further noted that Nigeria lost over 30,000 jobs in the sector due to loss of two million tonnes of steel from 2016 to early 2019.
He remarked that, “If the government can support the people in Nigeria and let the border closure continue, it will improve the country in terms of security. I am pleased for the sustained closure as it will bring life to the Ajaokuta steel”.
Speaking on the automobile sector, the Stallion Group CEO, Anant Badjatya, pointed out that the closure of border has helped the automobile sector tremendously and is coming at an important time.
He stated also, that about 600, 000 cars were being smuggled into the country, but Nigeria can do better in car production and assembly through the closure.
According to him, “We can assemble the best cars in the world in Nigeria, and the automobile sector can generate employment. We have the largest assembly plant in Nigeria which can do 200, 000 cars, and can lead to employment creation.
“The inflation is for a short time and the pain needs to be gone through for a better future. Nigeria has to go through the pain to deliver a standard future”, he ended
With such responses from industry players, the Nigerian government may continue to close its porous border until 2020 to curb smuggling and tackle illicit trades between neighbouring nations.
In the words of the CBN Governor, “The Nigerian economy is very important and the growth of the Nigerian economy should be to create jobs and also to keep our industries alive to remain a primary focus of government. We do not have any choice but to continue to take this seriously”.