NIGERIA – The closure of Nigeria’s land borders aimed at curbing smuggling activities, especially of rice, has taken a toll on rice-exporting countries as the price of the commodity dipped by a joint 46 percent in one month in countries like Thailand and India.

President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari in August, ordered the closure of the land border with Benin Republic and other neighbouring countries due to massive smuggling activities especially of rice that threatened the attainment of self-sufficiency in production of agricultural commodities.

The exercise, code-named, ‘Ex-Swift Response’, was being jointly conducted by the customs, immigration, police and military personnel and coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser.

From January to August, over one million metric tonnes of rice were brought into Benin mostly from Thailand and India.

Between August and September, the wholesale price of the broken parboiled rice, the species in top exporting countries fell on product glut resulting from a decline in exports.

In India, the wholesale price dropped from $0.64/kg in August to $0.40/kg as at 30 September of this year. In Thailand, the price of the commodity declined by 9.2 percent in the review period.

Meanwhile, the closure of the country’s borders seems to have led to increase in prices of some food items such as rice, frozen chicken and turkey.

There are fears that Nigerians may buy a 50kg bag of rice for as high as N50,000 (US$137) in December 2019 if the land borders remain closed.

Already, the price of rice has risen by 86% to an all-time high of N27,000 (US$74) per 50kg from N14,500(US$39), an indication that local rice farmers do not currently have the capacity to meet local demand in the country.

Defending the decision, the President said, ‘’After many years of diplomacy and aggressive regulatory oversight which yielded few results, we decided to close our land borders for a limited time to assess the impact of this measure

‘’Within a few short weeks, we are already seeing a decline in the volumes of counterfeit smuggled goods in some of our major markets across the country.’’

This is collaborated by Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Hameed Ali who appeared before the Senate and House of Representatives joint committees on Finance and National Planning, working on the 2020 – 2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper stating,

“There was a day in September that we collected N9.2bn (US$25m) in one day. It had never happened before. This was after the closure of the border and since then, we have maintained an average of about N4.7bn (US$12m) to N5.8bn (US$15m) on a daily basis which is far more than we used to collect.”

The Federal government is adamant to stick to the border closure claiming that it will do so until its neighbouring countries adhere to the existing ECOWAS protocol on movement.

Last month ECOWAS parliament called for reversal of the boarder closure as it poses a threat to the implementation of the protocol on the free movement of persons within the region.