By Adejoke Adeleye
A Panel of Discussants on Thursday expressed divergent views on the closure of the country’s borders, arguing whether or not the closure was in the interest of Nigerians.
The stakeholders who are from different sectors of work of life expressed their views at an event, organised by the Consolidated Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Ogun State Chapter to mark this year’s World Television Day.
The topic of the discourse was “Border closure: Gains and Pains.
Two of the four discussants, defended the government for taking the decision while the other two spoke against it.
Those who spoke were a veteran journalist, Eddy Aina; Dapo Oke, a community leader at the Nigeria-Republic of Benin border; Abdullahi Maiwada, spokesman of the Ogun State Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and Sunday Olaposi Oginni, Secretary of the State Chapter of the Labour Party (LP).
While Aina and Maiwada agreed that Nigeria “cannot continue to be a big brother of Africa while we continue to suffer”, Oginni was of the view that the policy was not thought through because “it is an anti-people policy which has increased the suffering of the masses.”
Eddy Aina insisted that, the border should have closed much earlier for the benefit of the country and cited India as an example of a country who took a firm decision to ban importation of textiles at a certain period, arguing that the country now is the largest exporter of textiles in the world.
For Oginni the “suffering” the closure had brought to the ordinary Nigerian has wiped out any benefit the country has derived from it.
Oginni stated “The closure is anti- people, it ought to have been discussed extensively with the people before the final decision is taken.
He added “It (closure) is anti- people , that is why the government did not implement it before the general elections. The policy is bad, our (Nigeria) problem is bad leadership, bad policies and bad implementation.”
The customs spokesman Maiwada insisted that the decision is in order as it had immensely benefited the country in terms of revenue generation, among others.
He argued that no country can eradicate smuggling completely “It can only be suppressed”.
The community leader, Oke ascribed the rampant smuggling in the border areas to the government’s neglect of the border communities.
He also cited mass unemployment in these areas as another factor.
Also speaking on the closure of the border was Mrs Yinka Ogundinmu representing the state governor, she described mass media as a tool which captures both sounds and images, most especially the television aspect as a trusted platform of communication between the government and the people.
She also noted that Ogun state is the best place to discuss the closure of the border as it is the Gateway to other state and closer to Benin Republic,and some other countries.
“Over the period when the land borders have been closed by the federal Government, we have received complaint from traditional rulers, residents and people living around border towns. People of Idiroko, Agosasa, Ipokia, Ijoun, Imeko, Ilara among others have complained of economic activities being at its lowest ebb and calling for reopening of the border.
“They say some local industries in the areas depend on selling of their products to people in Benin republic but since the border have been closed they say they have not been making money”, she narrated.
Ogundinmu, however, said, “on the sweet side, we have heard from some local manufacturers that things have changed for the better since the border was closed.
“For example, the Poultry Farmers Association of Nigeria had their annual poultry show recently in Abeokuta here and they all affirmed that the closure of the borders has created a boom in the industry. They say they are unable to meet demands of Nigerians and they are currently expanding their businesses. Same thing applies to rice farmers.
“These farmers called on Government to further assist them and many unemployed graduates to make use of the opportunity to produce what people want and make legitimate money instead of searching for unavailable jobs or venturing into smuggling.
“Let me emphasise that our administration will always support things that will make life more meaningful for the people of Ogun State. We are always conscious of the objectives of the federal government led by President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR and we are in support of his purposeful leadership, Programmes and policies.” She concluded.
The Chairman the Consolidated Chapel, Kazeem Olowe had earlier in his speech said “As journalists, we see it as our responsibility to bring people with different opinions to come together to discuss the matter and possibly suggest solutions to the Federal government on how to handle the situation at hand.”
Olowe was of the view that creating such platform for different individuals to exchange ideas and bear their minds was a way of contributing to nation’s development.