Members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are determined to find solutions to the ongoing unilateral border closure by Nigeria.
ECOWAS’ fifteen member countries met on Saturday in Ouagadougou to find what they described as “realistic solutions” in the “short term”.
“The closure of Nigeria’s land borders to goods is very worrying because it affects the very foundations of our community, namely the free movement of people and goods,” said Nigerien Lieutenant General Salou Djibo.
“This meeting (…) must propose realistic and applicable solutions in the short term,” he said at the opening of the meeting which brings together ECOWAS foreign affairs and trade ministers.
“The unilateral closure of borders goes against all the trade and free movement treaties signed by Nigeria within the framework of the Economic Community of West African States.’‘
In August 2019, Nigeria unexpectedly closed its land borders to trade in goods, explaining that it wanted to put an end to smuggling, particularly of frozen rice or chicken from Benin, which crosses the porous border illegally.
The border closure also cast a shadow over a landmark free trade agreement signed by 54 of Africa’s 55 countries, an initiative hailed as a crucial step towards removing the continent’s trade barriers.
“These are difficult times for our community. There is danger in the rest (because) our gains are undermined by the closure of land borders to goods between Niger, Nigeria and Benin for six months now, (which) has a negative impact on the volume of inter-community trade for the years 2019 and 2020,” said the chairman of the ECOWAS commission, Ivorian Jean-Claude Kassi Brou.
“This closure has profound repercussions on trade, economic operators, not forgetting consumers who today have doubts about our community,” he added, referring to “catastrophic financial consequences”.
Nigeria’s 190 million inhabitants offer a very attractive market for producers in all its neighbouring countries.