Last year, President Muhammadu Buhari shut down Nigeria’s borders with neighboring countries over what he deemed as unfair business practices such as smuggling. More so, he reveled the prospects that the border closure would enable local industries to grow as that would force Nigerians to consume local products instead of imported or smuggled products.
Neighboring countries frowned at it because it negated the ECOWAS treaty. Nigerians also were not happy with it either. But if anyone was surprised that Buhari didn’t budge, then they didn’t know who Buhari is. The border closure has continued since last year. Nigerian exporters lost huge revenue as well as importers from other countries. As I recall, Vietnam and Thailand had to beg the Nigerian government to open the border so as to sell us their rice.
The border closure came with a lot of agony for Nigerian exporters especially. The intention of the president looks very good in theory but in practice, executing it came with a lot of pain and discomfort. We all agree that smuggling is illegal and should be stopped. But by shutting down our borders, how would Nigeria be able to tackle smuggling without offending the ECOWAS treaty?
Interestingly, Bloomberg reported on Monday that President Muhammadu Buhari has granted Dangote Group a special waiver that would allow the conglomerate transport its products across the Nigerian borders into other West African countries. This waiver was granted specially to him despite the fact that millions of Nigerian exporters don’t have the means to do so given the border closure.
According to a source within Dangote Group, it was disclosed to Bloomberg that the company now exports cement to Togo, Niger following “an authorisation given by this administration.” The question one may want to ask is why did Buhari give Dangote this exclusive right to export while millions of Nigerian businesses cannot? This seems very unfair.
If Buhari is actually serious about helping local businesses, shouldn’t he extend the same waiver to other Nigerian exporters? By singling out Dangote, it plays into the rumoured assumption that Dangote is one of the greatest beneficiaries of corruption in Nigeria. It’s very common to hear people say that Dangote wouldn’t have become the richest black man in the world today were it not for enjoying certain privileges from the government. In other words, they say he became rich because he has benefited from government corruption.
It is not in my place to say whether or not Dangote is corrupt or if he has benefited from corruption. What I will like to however say is that this news of granting Dangote Group waiver to export cement when other Nigerian exporters cannot export anything due to the border closure sounds very suspect. Like they say, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Our laws should apply to everybody. We shouldn’t have to be selective on who this law applies to or not.