Following the controversy that trailed recent waiver extended to Dangote Cement, BUA Cement and a gas supply firm by the Federal Government on border closure, members of the Organised Private Sector of Nigeria (OPSN) have advised that the borders be reopened to accommodate manufacturers and Small and Medium scale Enterprises (SMEs) businesses involved in import and export of goods.
The move by the private sector to pressure government is aimed at strengthening the country’s manufacturing export capacity, which is already experiencing a decline with hundreds of jobs and revenue losses. Also, the OPSN hinted that the one sided exemption to the three firms could generate rancour between Nigeria and neighbouring countries as they will not be happy to open their borders for the three beneficiary companies since their own trucks meant for Nigerian markets are not allowed to come in.
Those, who spoke to New Telegraph included the Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr. Muda Yusuf; the National President, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) and Chairperson of the OPSN, Hajiya Saratu Iya Aliyu; the Chairman, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria Export Promotion Group (MANEG), Chief Ene Dafinone; Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI), Lagos State Chairman, Gertrude Akhimien, and Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) Acting Director-General, Ambrose Oruche.
They emphasised that granting exemption to the three companies was the outcome of the meeting it held with the Presidency on the need for the Federal Government to review the current policy on border closure in the country, saying while it supported the move, it was, however, looking forward for more genuine investors to be captured. According to Yusuf, the chamber’s position is to see that the border is opened for all legitimate businesses for import and export in the country and not selected few firms.
He said from all indication, the granting of waivers to the three companies indicated that government was about opening the 14-month border closure for resumption of businesses. Yusuf said: “We feel that it should formally lead to reopening of the border because that is what all of us have been asking for and government should now focus on the capacity of the Nigeria Customs Service and other agencies to properly manage the borders to allow legitimate importers and exporters to resume work. “That is our expectations.
From the indication we have, government is also getting close to the point of taking decision to open the borders 14 months after. So what we prefer is that if the borders are opened, let it be opened for every legitimate businesses; that is, open for everybody as long as you are doing legitimate import and export business. They have to benefit from the reopening and no more for selective firms. That is our stance at the Lagos chamber.”
On her part, Aliyu explained that reviewing the border closure policy was one of the demands the OPSN made known to the Presidency at a special meeting on hike in electricity tariff in the country. She stated that OPSN did not support the border closure policy of the current administration in the first place because of its implications on local manufacturing, stressing that they were seeking for government to allow genuine and legitimate manufacturing companies to be captured in the latest exercise.
In his own response, Oruche said that allowing Dangote, BUA and a gas supply firm to resume export of their products via the border was in line with MAN’s position that genuine local manufacturers be given concession to enable them engage in export.
He said that the management of MAN also met the Presidency in August and wrote a memo letter in September on the re-opening of the border for export businesses for genuine manufacturers in the country. Dafinone, on his part, said that many of his group’s members had suffered from the border closure policy in the last 14-months and that the extension of waivers to Dangote, BUA and the gas firm was not enough as other genuine local manufacturing exporters should be given the same opportunity. Dafinone said: “The time for the border closure has been on for 14 months and the manufacturers do not support the closure because it affects the export of so many of our members including Dangote and BUA.
“Now that government has given an exemption to these particular companies, the two main issues that will arise are that there are many other genuine exporters whose products are in high demand in our neighbouring countries. “Our stance is we want the Federal Government to reconsider many more companies for this kind of exemption.
But the second point that is likely to arise is that as we give companies exemptions for export from Nigeria, we must be mindful that exporters in our neighbouring countries, who are seeing our trailers, trucks entering their zones will not be happy when we are still banning their own trucks from entering Nigeria. “So there can be fallout of negative reactions from those countries because of this one sided exemption.”