He said before the borders are reopened, “there must be concrete engagements with countries that are involved in using their ports and countries as landing ports for bringing in goods that are smuggling into Nigeria.”
Mr Emefiele was reacting to complaints against the border closure from sections of the Nigerian economy and neighbouring countries.
Nigeria closed its land borders in August, only three months after signing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. The government said the measure is to curb influx of smuggled goods from neighbouring countries such as Benin, Niger and Cameroon. The goods mostly involved are used cars, used clothes and rice.
Mr Emefiele said there has been an “astronomical growth” in the number of rice farmers and local production of the commodity has increased “exponentially” in recent years.
“Between 2015 and now, we have also seen an astronomical rise in the number of companies, corporate and individuals that are setting up mills, integrated mills and even small mills in the various areas.
“And the Central Bank and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development have been at the centre of not just only encouraging the production of rice in Nigeria but also funding these farmers by giving them loans to buy seedlings, fertilisers or some of the herbicides that they need for their rice production,” he said.
The governor, who said the border closure followed complaints by rice processors and poultry farmers, said the government had tried to close the bank accounts of those smuggling or dumping rice on the country.
“Recently, and this is the absolute truth, about two weeks before the border closure, the chairman of the Rice Processors Association, incidentally, he owns Umza Rice in Kano, he called me and said that all the rice millers and processors were carrying in their warehouses nothing less than 25,000 metric tons of milled rice in their warehouses.
“That this rice had been unsold because of the smuggling and dumping of rice through Republic of Benin and other border posts that we have in the country and that he would want us to do something about it.
“Secondly, we also have members of the Poultry Association of Nigeria who also complained that they had thousands of crates of eggs that they could not sell with even some of the processed chickens that they could not sell also arising from problem of smuggling and dumping of poultry products on Nigeria.
“I was told also that after some meetings that were held, in addition to those engagements that we (CBN) also held with the president, the border was closed subsequently, ” Mr Emefiele said.
Mr Emefiele said the border closure is a means of rejuvenating Nigeria’s economy and creation of employment opportunities.
“A week after the borders were closed, the same rice millers association called to tell us that all the rice that they had in their warehouses have all been sold. Indeed, a lot of people have been depositing money in their accounts and they have even been telling them ‘please hold on don’t even pay money yet until we finished processing your rice.’
“The poultry associations have also come to say that they have sold all their eggs, they have sold all their processed chickens and that demand is rising.
“So when you asked, ‘what is the benefit, the benefit of the border closure on the economy of Nigeria’, I just used two products – poultry and rice. The benefit is that it has helped to create jobs for our people, it has helped to bring our integrated rice milling that we have in the country back into business again and they are making money.
“Our rural communities are bubbling because there is activities, because rice farmers are able to sell their paddy. The poultry business is also doing well, and also maize farmers who produce maize from which feeds are produced are also doing business.
“These are the benefits. We are not saying that the borders should be closed in perpetuity, but that before the borders be reopened, there must be concrete engagements with countries that are involved in using their ports and countries as landing ports for bringing in goods that are smuggling into Nigeria.
“That engagement must be held so that we agree on the basis under which: what are the kinds of products that they can land in their countries because if those products they land in their countries are meant for their own local consumption, it is understandable,” Mr Emefiele concluded.
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