Nigeria’s decision to close its borders is aimed at preventing weapons and drugs from entering the country and not just to stop food smuggling, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed said.
In August, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the partial closing of Nigeria’s boundary with Benin to curb smuggling of rice, a staple. His administration further clamped down in October by restricting the trade of all goods across the land borders to curb smuggling from Benin and Niger into the continent’s most-populous nation.
It’s not only about illegal food shipments, Ahmed said Friday in an interview at the International Monetary Fund annual meetings in Washington.
“It’s also about security because that’s how ammunition comes into our country and that’s how drugs that are destroying our children also come into our country,” she said.
The initial shutdown of the Benin border has already caused food inflation in Nigeria to accelerate for the first time in four months, pushing up the headline number. The restriction came only two months after the countries signed up to the African Continental Free Trade Area, which targets greater economic integration through the removal of trade barriers and tariffs.
The continent-wide free-trade pact makes it even more important for countries to respect each other’s trade regulations, Ahmed said. Customs and securities agencies from Nigeria, Benin and Niger are in talks about the future reopening of the borders, she said.
“It’s about sanitizing the borders, getting our neighbors to conform with the commitments that we’ve signed onto.”