Prices of food stuffs and other commodities have increased in many border towns and most of the country’s cities as the borders remain partially closed.
The partial closure is as a result of joint security exercise conducted by the customs, immigration, and other security outfits aimed at securing Nigeria’s borders. The exercise started on August 20.
The authorities said the security exercise was called at the instance of the National Security Adviser (NSA).
Daily Trust reports that many Nigerians who do trans-border business have been experiencing difficulties in carrying out their trade.
This has forced them to cut their demand even as they increased the prices of their little stocks, our reporters learnt.
Worst hit are residents of border communities where prices of food stuffs and other commodities have soared.
In some border communities in Ogun State, petrol was even sold for N350 per litre, instead of government regulated price of N145/litre.
Also in border communities in Kwara state, petrol price that used to be N160 is now being sold for between N200 and N400.
The increment in petrol price in the areas has also led to hike in transportation fare which has also affected the prices of locally produced food items like yam, yam flour and others in most towns in Kwara State.
‘Closure blocked smuggling of petrol’
But a renowned financial expert Mr Bismarck Rewane said the closure of the border has forced the price of petrol down to N144 per litre.
Mr Rewane, who is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Financial Derivatives Company Limited, in a report he presented at the monthly Lagos Business School’s executive breakfast meeting for September, also said the closure had blocked smuggling of petrol to the neighbouring countries.
Rewane said the development showed that part of the nearly 60 million litres of petrol said to be consumed daily in Nigeria were smuggled to the neighbouring countries.
He also revealed that diesel price has also crashed to N210 per litre from N250/litre.
The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Malam Mele Kyari, also said the volume of petrol evacuated from depots to filling stations across the country has dropped significantly since the border closure became effective.
The NNPC boss said this on his verified twitter handle @MKKyari.
Between June 2018 and June 2019, the NNPC had imported 21million litres of petrol for consumption, out of which an average of 44,366,781.77 litres were consumed daily in June 2018; 39,154,764.15 litres in July; 54,144,365.76 litres daily in August of same year, and 55,499,192.80 litres daily in September 2018.
However, findings by our correspondents in states where Nigeria shares border with neighbouring countries show that prices of rice, poultry products, some brands of vegetable oil, beans and even fairly used cloths have increased by between 10 and 30 %.
For instance, a bag of 50 kg foreign rice which usually sold for N13,000 and N15,000 before the closure now goes for N16,000, N18,000 and N20, 000 depending on the brands in many towns and cities in the country.
A resident of Belel in Maiha Local Government Area of Adamawa State Dauda Abubakar told Daily Trust that price of bread rose in recent weeks due to restriction of flour import from Cameroon.
He said it was difficult to transport flour from Yola due to bad roads and broken bridges; hence bakers opted for a cheaper alternative from Cameroonian side of the border which is closer.
However, a fruits dealer, Muhammad Bello said the restriction prevented exports of orange in to Cameroon, thereby causing drop in price.
He said the price of a sack of orange crashed from N9000 to N7000 as the supply surpassed its demand.
Adamawa being one of the three front line states in the war against Book Haram had been placed under a form of border restriction since 2015 but renewed control in the last few weeks caused outcry at the border.
A rice smuggler who spoke to our reporter described the closure as counter-productive, saying prices of maize began to shoot up the Wurobokki border in Fufore local government area.
In Katsina, prices of food stuffs have also risen. The price of 25 litres of vegetable oil has risen from N9,500 to N10,800 in the state. Packet of spaghetti rose from N2,700 to N3,400, while Macroni rose from N3,400 to N3600.
But the partial closure has heightened smuggling around Lagos border communities. The smugglers have now resorted into using waterways to bring contraband items such as rice, frozen poultry products and fairly used clothes, shoes and bags into the country. Despite the increase in smuggling activities, prices of some basic food items have skyrocketed, with traders and consumers complaining of limited stocks.
Frozen poultry is the most affected in Lagos as a kilogramme of frozen chicken, which sold for N1,200, now costs N1,600, while a kilogramme of frozen turkey now sells at N1,700.
A trader at Alaba Rago, a major market in Lagos, Tawa Ibrahim, said that the border closure was affecting his business.
She said: “Lake Rice (locally produced rice) would have been a better alternative for us, but we are not getting it to buy… Even the volume of okra needed to feed this nation cannot be produced in Nigeria. We rely so much on Cotonou for okra. That is why its price has also shot up since the border was closed. A big basket of okra, which sold for N4,000 or N5,000, is now N8,000.”
In Kebbi, the closure of borders with Niger and Benin Republics is already causing economic hardship to people around the border areas of Dole Kaina, Lolo, Kamba and Bachaka.
When our correspondent visited some of the border towns residents, particularly farmers and merchants in the area, said the closure of the borders was already causing them economic hardship.
The district head of Lolo, Alhaji Muhammed Sallah while lamenting over the situation said “The situation is becoming unbearable. As you are aware our people are into farming and they do cross border trade. Since they close the borders in Lolo we cannot do our farming and we cannot trade. The prices of commodities are increasing by the days”.
He added that the situation was becoming more pathetic because his people have family, cultural and trade ties with people of Benin and Niger Republics and because of the border closure his people in Kebbi, Niger and Benin Republics are suffering.
In Kwara, prices of commodities in all border communities have equally skyrocketed as a result of the partial closure of the border.
Communities like Gwanara, Bukuro, Okuta, Yaahikra, Chikanda, Ilesha-Baruba have been at the receiving end of the closure while prices of rice and edible oil have also increased in the state capital.
Emir of Gwanara, Alhaji Sabi Idris Kotokotogi during a visit to his community said the closure of the border is affecting them seriously adding that “any time the Nigerian government takes any drastic decision on the closure of our borders it is those of us on the border that suffers the fate.”
Security heads assess operations in N/Central, 3 others
Meanwhile, the heads of security agencies including the Comptroller Generals of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and the Coordinator of the Joint Exercise in the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), Brigadier General Emmanuel Ndagi have begun on the spot assessment of the Exercise Swift Response.
The exercise began about three weeks ago as interagency cooperation across 25 states in four geopolitical zones that are North-West, North-Central, South-West, and the South-South.
Led by Customs and Immigration, the exercise has the support of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN), the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Security and Intelligence agencies as they continued to patrol and secure the border areas since its announcement on August 20, 2019.
Responding to Daily Trust request for updates on Monday, the Public Relations Officer of NCS, Deputy Comptroller Joseph Attah said, “The joint security exercise continues to record successes in terms of seizures and arrests.”
He also confirmed that the CG of Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd), the CG of Immigration, Muhammad Babandede and the Coordinator of the exercise at ONSA, Brig. Gen. Ndagi have started on the spot assessment of the operation beginning with the North Central.
The assessment will also cover the three other geopolitical zones where the operation is ongoing, he noted. On when the exercise will end, DC Attah said the operation was ongoing and that huge results have been recorded.
Referring to a record, Customs said as at two weeks ago, 33 illegal migrants were arrested; seizures of 15 vehicles and other various smuggled goods were made in the ongoing joint border operation.
Some of the seizures include 3,560-50kg bags of parboiled foreign rice, 59 bags of NPK fertilizer, 15 vehicles, 12 drums laden with petrol, three engine boats and 65 drums of groundnut oil.
The rest are four trucks, 75 gallons of petrol, 29 motorcycles, 68 gallons of vegetable oil, and 70 jerricans of petrol.