By Nduka Orjinmo
Nigeria, one of Africa’s superpowers, closed all its land borders two months ago to tackle smuggling – but the unprecedented move is affecting trade across the region.
Bustling borders have come to a standstill, with goods rotting and queues of lorries waiting at checkpoints in the hope the crossings will reopen.
The closures were imposed without warning on 21 August – and Nigeria’s neighbours are angry.
What prompted the move?
Mainly rice. It seems Nigeria was fed up about the flouting of its ban on the importation of rice over its land borders.
Smugglers bringing in rice from Benin appeared to be making a killing.
The biggest contraband route was between Cotonou, Benin’s biggest city, and Nigeria’s commercial hub Lagos, which is just a few hours’ drive away.
According to the World Bank, Benin’s economy is heavily reliant on the informal re-export and transit trade with Nigeria, which accounts for about 20% of its GDP, or national income.
And about 80% of imports into Benin are destined for Nigeria, the bank says.
Nigeria banned the importation of rice from Benin in 2004 and from all its neighbors in 2016, but that has not stopped the trade…