Permanent closure of land border, not solution to smuggling—LCCI

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The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry has cautioned that closing land borders permanently will not solve the problem of smuggling and insecurity in Nigeria.

The President of the Chamber, Mrs Toki Mabogunje, stated this during the 2020 LCCI Presidential Policy Dialogue Webinar, tagged, Benefits and Challenges of Investing and doing Business in Nigeria.

She said the closure of the borders so far has had devastating effect on transborder trade, adding that   in the light of Nigeria’s signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement, there was a need to brace for the kind of competition that comes from such continental economic integration agenda.

She said, “Closure of the land borders has had enormous impact on the cross-border economic activities.

“Indications are now that closure is indefinite.

“While we share the concerns of the government on issues of security and smuggling, we believe that the indefinite closure of the land borders is not the solution to the problem.

“We are excited about the signing of the AFCfTA but we need to prepare ourselves for the competition that is inherent in such continental economic integration agenda.”

Noting that a number of commitments were made with regards to the creation of an environment that will enable the private sector to be more competitive, the LCCI president expressed concerns that not much had happened to the actaulisation of the commitments.

Even though the government had made efforts to improve infrastructure in the nation, funding had remained a major constraint to infrastructure upgrade, she noted.

She recommended partnership with the private sector in attracting capital, saying, “At a time like this, we should do what we can to attract private capital for the domestic economy.

“Challenges of funding in the economy is critical and it needs to be tackled as the ease of doing business remains an issue in the country.”

Explaining further, she said the key cost drivers for the private sector were high energy cost, depreciating rate of the naira, high cost of funds, high cost of transacting business at the ports, among others.

“There is a limit to which these costs can be passed to the consumer, especially in an environment with weak purchasing power,” she added.

In his remarks, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, said the government was doing all it could to fix infrastructure in the country.

He maintained that the amount budgeted for infrastructure was far off the mark, adding that Nigeria needed about $3tn to completely upscale its national  infrastructure over the next 30 years.

He said, “According to the Nigerian Infrastructure Masterplan, Nigeria requires an estimated sum of $3tn to upscale its national infrastructure over the next 30 years.

“This breaks down to an average of $100bn annually.”

According to him, part of the steps to resolve the challenge  of energy  includes the negotiations with Siemens AG to revitalise the power sector as well as expand the generation and supply capacity from 11,000 megawatts to 25,000 megawatts by 2025.

“Also, the Federal Government is concluding plans to secure a $3bn loan from the World Bank to bridge the gap between what is provided for in the current tariff, and the cost to businesses,” he added.

On her part, the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Dr Amina Mohammed, highlighted the challenges the Covid-19 pandemic had posed to businesses across the world and what the body was doing to aid member nations recover from it.

She noted that the pandemic was both a health and human crisis which demanded greater solidarity and partnership to tackle.

“The reality of the crises reminds us of our interdependence and that no country can address it alone.

“The world needs multilateral relations to confront the sheer threats and seize the opportunity to bounce back,” she said.

According to her, the UN has a key role to support nations and their healthcare, adding that financial bodies such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were also tackling fiscal challenges in nations across the world to ease the pressure brought on by the pandemic and enable them respond better.

She said, Canada and the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, had established various initiatives aimed at helping private organisations recover from the pandemic.

The UN, according to her, has also initiated a programme to finance sustainable developments in member states to help private sector and services recover.

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