ABUJA, Nigeria – Mr. Ajuri Ngelale, Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammad Buhari on Public Matters, has described the nation’s land border closure as ‘temporary pain for long term gain.”
Ngelale said this in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja while speaking on the pains, gains and importance of the border closure to the country and its citizens.
He said “We have received a lot of feedbacks from Nigerians, talking to people from different parts of the country, they tell us very clearly that look, this thing is hurting us, and food prices are going up, particularly rice.
“We want our people to know that we understand it, that we are aware of it, and we are sensitive to it, but we are appealing to our people, we are absolutely appealing to our people to please be patient with us.
“When you look at the gains that have so far been obtained from August when the border closure went into effect, there is no doubt in anybody’s mind that this is the right thing for the country.
“We have seen daily PMS consumption go down from approximately 61million litres of subsidised PMS down to beneath 50 million litres of subsidised PMS.
“That’s tens of millions of dollars we were losing everyday to these cross border smuggling, and we have been able to curtail that.
“And ultimately also the customs has reported one of the highest rates of revenues it has generated on a monthly basis in the nation’s history.
“Because those that were illicitly smuggling are now having to be forced to go through our ports and go through the right processes and pay excise duties and the others.
“It ensure that we have the revenues we need to effectively develop our infrastructure and provide our social amenities like the social investment programmes.
So we are asking our people please, just be patient with us, it is painful, I know, but it is temporary.
“Ultimately we are going to get to the point where once we can create the demand for our local producers which we are now doing, we can have the rising competition which naturally will bring the prices down, so temporary pain for long term gain, please be patient with us”.
Ngelela also noted that the border closure will create job opportunities for the teeming youth population of the country and ensure its economy grows stronger and viable for now and the coming generations of the nation.
“What we are doing is in the best interest of you, your children, your grandchildren and the interest of our nation.
“We have to stop this multi-billion dollar criminal cartel of smugglers who are keeping factories open in Thailand and Vietnam, while we have an employment crisis.
“We have youths, we have people who want to work but the jobs aren’t there, simply because we are using our money, the civil servant, the teacher, the petty trader, we are using that money to fund the operation in Thailand and Vietnam.
“We can’t do that anymore, we have to close our borders to ensure our local production is what is being consumed and patronised, so we can encourage local development and job creation locally.
“So instead of spending the nation’s forex, we are earning forex for the country while we are creating jobs for our people,“ he said.
While speaking on the need to have put alternative arrangements in place before commencing on the border closure, Ngelale said theoretical and verbal solutions do not work the same way and Nigerians need to be sensitised.
According to him, Nigerians should not only focus on rice when border closure is brought up, but should think of other contraband items which are being stopped from getting into the country.
He said: “the criminal cartel of oasis smugglers are not an organisation that has a CEO and established hierarchy, you are dealing with a faceless group of desperate forces.
“That joins up with government functionaries in Benin Republic, government functionaries in Thailand, in Vietnam, customs functionaries, port authorities in these neighbouring countries.
“You have this huge group of people that you can’t sit down with and say well please just for a month, stop the smuggling, so we can put in some measure
“That doesn’t exist, that is fantasy, what you have to do, is you have to first stop the smugglers from smuggling, so you can now quantify and analyse the extent to which the illicit smugglers have penetrated your market.
“Once you are able to establish the level of market penetration across these goods and services, what you now have is to ensure that you create incentives for your local producers to meet local demand.
“Now in the interim period, the extent that the illicit smugglers have taken up market share, you have to replace that immediately with legal importation, so there is no scarcity in the country, which is what we have done”.
The Presidential aide decried the actions in the ports of Benin Republic as dubious and misleading to take advantage of ECOWAS free trade proposals.
He said: “we want our people to understand that at the port in Benin Republic, they are bringing in these bags of rice that say made in Vietnam.
“As soon as it gets into Benin Republic, they slash open those bags, emptying the contents into bags that say made in Benin Republic to try and take advantage of ECOWAS free trade proposals.
“That is how we are getting ripped off and that is why I say this involves government functionaries as well private sector cartel.
“And that is why we have to take drastic measures we have taken, because they have a lot to lose.”