Of Border Closure and Custom Officials

by Gbolahan Gbadamosi

I followed the posts on borders and the Custom services with keen interest. I have a few observations.

1. We talk about borders as if they are a physical, well defined pathway of walls. Borders are imaginary lines drawn by some arrogant tyrants in colonial times. Perhaps some of the borders were drawn when they were seriously drunk. We accept them because we don’t even have a choice and they never asked our inputs anyway. Have you not wondered why the borders are wobbly and not straight? Why didn’t they just draw straight lines and put countries in boxes for example? Why are some countries very big and other very small?

2. People who live near border posts do not have an idea where one country starts and the other ends. They just move across these imaginary lines. Even great America is struggling with it. Is this not why President Trump wants to put up a physical wall with Mexico? Let’s see how that ends and whether it solves US border problems.

3. We blame the Custom men as corrupt but they are corrupted by who? Desperate Nigerians who never want to live by the rules are the ones offering bribes. A selfish way to make illegal money. *Me, myself and I.*

4. Think about the Japanese and the Indians as two examples of people who put their country before self on important economic matters. Japanese would insist on eating Japanese rice and nothing else when in their country. That, they believe, sustains their local farmers and their rice industry. Can we? Trust me Japanese rice is not great at all. It tastes and looks terrible. *But monkey no fine, im mama like am so*. Indians would drive mainly Indian made cars despite the prospect of enjoying a good Toyota. You’ll be amazed how only mainly foreigners drive foreign cars in India. For the average Indian, the Indian car is the best. For us, we would rather blame our government for everything. Our elites are never interested in domestic products. It has to be all foreign but we specialise in blaming government with our big grammar even for that. Once anything has a Nigerian label our people just disrespect it, especially the educated people. It is disgusting to even think about it.

Here is what I expect to follow that border closure which is announced to end on 31st January 2020.

1. Extend the closure by another 12 months to sort out the problems.

2. Commence a massive national campaign with clear and honest figures or how much these smuggling (and illegal trade) is costing the nation. Let us know what is being lost in terms of jobs and local industry growth. What could be gained if we actually export some of these products which we have capacity to produce massively.

3. Identify the gains of the last few months (if any) in facts and figures. Publicly showcase Nigerian businesses people whose fortunes have turned around as a result of these close. Why are several local business groups applauding this? Why are importers condemning this?

4. Go into serious discussion with our neighbours for a permanent solution when the borders eventually reopens.

5. Consider the EU style on importation within ECOWAS. Within the EU, import taxes are taken at any country’s border where the goods first arrive. The goods are clearly labelled unopened for the country of destination. These taxes are then collated and shared among member countries based on agreed criteria. This way we can just open borders permanently throughout West Africa.

6. Reach agreements with our neighbours of the possibility to send and sell Petrol and Petroleum products directly to them. We can therefore have Nigerian owned fuel station selling fuel throughout these countries at agreed rates but with clear benefits to these countries. If people need a product and it is cheaper elsewhere they are desperate to get it cheaper and you can’t blame them. My point here is those jerrycans and fuel tankers smuggling fuel will disappear if we remove the middle man and take the products directly to the people who need it.

7. Some people have suggested taking over Benin and even Togo. The very idea of taking over other countries or merging with them is seriously arrogant. Nigerians have a way of ensuring other Africans don’t trust or like them. If I was from Benin or Togo I know how I will feel when people make comments like this about my country. Countries are sovereign and they are mostly happy the way they are. Why can’t we have a positive relationship with our neighbours instead of lording it over them just because we are big? This is why they loathe us and I honestly don’t blame them. Unfortunately, even in our arrogance we can’t fix anything in our big country for 60 years. So where is this pride and arrogance really coming from?

I hope this government does not reopen the borders without doing something that is lasting and positive about the problems that led to the closure in the first place. I have many blames for our government, they are not blameless but can we also look ourselves in the mirror sometimes so the blame can go round. This short piece is directed at us, we would blame the government in another one.

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