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Border Closure: We’re Losing N13bn Weekly, Northern Traders Cry Out

…Say poverty level worsening

Businessmen on the platform of Arewa Economic Forum (AEF) have sent a Save-Our-Soul message to the Federal Government to reopen some northern borders not linked to Niger Republic as over 2,000 Nigeria-bound containers have been trapped, resulting in a weekly loss of over N13 billion.

The Chairman of AEF, Ibrahim Shehu Dandakata, at a media briefing in Abuja on Sunday, said many businesses up north have packed up and the surviving ones are in coma, worsening poverty and unemployment levels in the region and Nigeria at large.

Dandakata added that Niger Republic has a large land mass but a small population of about 25 million, many of whom survive largely on trans-border trading.

He said: “We urge the federal government to look at our plights and those of Nigerians in general and at least open those borders not linked directly to Niger Republic.

“We have the Maje-Illo border in Kebbi State linking Benin Republic. It has nothing to do with Niger Republic. Once that is opened, we can arrange to have our goods moved and cleared there if the government can approve Customs duties to be paid there. It’s an option we appeal to the government to consider”.

Dandakata, who called for deeper diplomatic efforts in handling the military juntas in Niger Republic, said the war option should not be on the cards considering the wider socio-economic implications in the entire West and Central Africa sub-region.

“Democracy is good and we hope Niger Republic returns to democracy. We need peace so that trade resumes on that corridor.

“Formal trade between Nigeria and Niger is about N171 billion. Informal trade is not captured and it’s about N515 billion. Most of the sheep, goats and cows consumed in Nigeria are from Niger. Nigeria closed the border to Niger not the other way round. Most of the things they use come from Nigeria. People load goods from Kano to the Central Africa Republic, Mali, Niger etc.

“The border closure is going to affect west and central Africa. Niger is one of the poorest nations in the world.

“We should not have refugees. One million Nigerians live in Niger due to the insurgency up north.

“If Niger boils, Nigeria can’t handle the volume of refugees given the situation we have in Nigeria already.

“We advise the ECOWAS to target military junta and their cronies and not the poor and vulnerable. They should isolate the junta and deal with them.

“Don’t punish the Nigerian and Nigeriens traders, so the border between Kebbi and Benin Republic should be opened, we appeal.

“We also appeal to the junta to insulate economic interests from their selfish interests. We can see the consequences of what has happened in Niger.

Three million small arms, we learnt, are already in Nigeria. If Niger burns, we can imagine the influx of arms. It’s Niger that helps stem the tide. Imagine if they are not there to check these, we will be in a big mess” Dandakata added.

Also speaking, a member of the Northwest Licensed Customs agents, Hamza Saleh, lamented that some of the trapped containers contain perishables and were already decomposing.

“We’re talking about foods and animals, onions, pepper, tomatoes etc are rotting away.

“One person said he has lost N50 million so far and still counting.

“We appeal to the FG to provide other openings. Maje-Illo border in Kebbi for instance”, he said.

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