MEMBERS of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Saturday met in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in a fresh move to find a solution to Nigeria’s continued closure of its borders to curb smuggling.
Benin Republic, Niger Republic, Togo, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Senegal, The Gambia, Liberia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, are all displeased with Nigeria’s unilateral decision to shut its borders.
Niger’s army chief Salou Djibo lamented at the meeting that the border closure “strikes at the roots of our grouping — the free circulation of people and goods.”
“The unilateral closure of the borders goes against all the commercial and free movement treaties signed by Nigeria in the framework of ECOWAS,” he said.
ECOWAS Commission president, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou of Cote d’Ivoire said the bloc is ‘living through difficult times,” on the strength of the Nigerian action.
“We are enfeebled by the closure of borders between Niger, Nigeria and Benin since six months and this has negatively impacted on trade volumes in the bloc in 2019 and 2020.
“This closure has had profound repercussions on trade, on economic operators without forgetting consumers who today doubt our community.”
The land borders with Benin and Niger were shut in August in what government says was part of the efforts to curb smuggling of rice and other commodities.
Benin has been particularly hit by the development as much contraband used to be smuggled into Nigerian through its ports.
Nigeria’s oil is also illegally smuggled into Benin costing the government billions of dollars.