Abdullahi Omaki, Nigeria’s ambassador in Chad, has said the federal government’s directive to close the country’s border in some troubled parts of Borno, Yobe, Niger and Plateau States with some neighbouring countries is taking a negative turn on the economies of the latter.
Speaking at the sidelines of the 4th Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) on Tuesday, Omaki said that Chad and Cameroon were the most affected by the directive.
“The volume of trade, largely unrecorded, is about 80 per cent in favour of Nigeria,” he said. “Most of the goods and services coming into Chad, 80 per cent come from Nigeria with less than 20 per cent coming from Cameroon. If the borders were not closed and you go through the Banki road, the Gambo road you will see the numbers of trailers that are plying that route on daily basis.
“Now that the border has been closed with effect from the end of last year, if you ask the Cameroonian authority, they will tell you how much they are losing in terms of revenue that they collect from these vehicles that pass through Banki and Gamboru.”
President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday led Nigeria’s delegation to the summit which was attended by four other African leaders of LCBC member states.
The downturn in economic activities at the border areas with the neighbouring countries followed President Jonathan’s declaration of a state of emergency in 15 local government areas in Borno, Yobe, Plateau and Niger states last December.
Affected local government areas in Borno which partly have contiguous border with Cameroon and Chad were; Maiduguri Metropolitan, Gamboru Ngala, Banki Bama, Biu and Jere.
In the declaration, the president also directed the closure of land borders contiguous to the affected local government areas as part of measures to tighten security and check incidences of cross-border terrorist activities.
He also underscored Nigeria’s commitment to Protocols on Free Movement of Persons Goods signed between ECOWAS member countries and noted that the border closure was an interim measure that would be reviewed as soon as normalcy returned.
Omaki said the closure of the borders had drastically affected the volume of trade between Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad.
He said though Nigeria did not have land border with Chad except the maritime boundary through Lake Chad, the effect of the closure on that country could not be underestimated.
He explained that exported goods from Nigeria to Chad were transported through the Cameroonian land border.
He said with the closure of the borders, Chadian businessmen now sourced their goods from Sudan and some other African countries at higher costs. The envoy also said that Nigerians were not also left out of the effects of the ban on vehicular movement of goods and services.
“The effect is both ways,” he said. “As I said 80 per cent of goods and services to Chad come from Nigeria, so automatically, Nigerian business people are also losing because those goods are not coming. The Chadians who are the recipients of these goods and services are also losing because they are not getting them and if they have to get them.”
Speaking on Nigeria-Chad bilateral relations, Omaki said that the central issue of the agreement was on security, particularly as it concerned Nigeria. He noted that Chad is strategically located between North Africa, East Africa and Central Africa where there had been extreme religious and political tensions.
“All of them melt into Chad from where they can now find there bearing into neighbouring countries and the largest heat is of course, Nigeria,” he said. ” So Chad is of a strategic importance to Nigeria and I think we should re-evaluate our relationship on that basis on the fact that this country is a major corridor between Nigeria and other countries around Africa.”
He said that since the Chadian independence on Aug. 11, 1960, about two months before that of Nigeria, that country had been in one form of crisis or the other until recent times.
Omaki said the quantum of crises in Chad at that time led many of its citizens to find new abode in some Nigerian cities like Maiduguri, Kano, Jos and Lagos. “I was told by the Consular-General of Chad in Lagos that there are more than one million Chadians in Lagos area alone,” he said. “In Maiduguri, they have the largest and also in Maiduguri, there are certain quarters that are basically Chadian. Most of these people who are there, their children are of necessity already Nigerians because of their birth. Most of them were born there, they grow up there, they don’t know any other country except to say I am a Nigerian with Chadian blood.”
Omaki said he was optimistic that the security situation in Nigeria would improve to pave way for the opening of the borders and the resumption of normal economic and trading activities between Nigeria and its neighbours.
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- ‘How Boko Haram attacks have changed the Maiduguri where I grew up’ (oladapokolawole.com)
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- Boko Haram: Border closure cripples Niger’s economy – Nigerian Tribune (transformationwatch.wordpress.com)