Total closure of Nigerian land borders, especially, the Benin border, is said to be having a significant toll on many small and medium businesses (SMEs), especially in Togo, Ghana, and Cote D’Ivoire that rely on inter-country trade, Former President of Ghana, John Mahama has said.
Mahama argued that businesses in Nigeria that rely on supplies from these countries are also suffering, and appealed to the Federal Government to reopen the borders for economic activities to continue.
Speaking at an anniversary lecture of Realnews Magazine in Lagos, yesterday, he said in Nigeria, the unilateral closure of the borders since August is a worrying development for the growth of free trade in the ECOWAS sub-region.
“Of course, one can understand the harmful effects of smuggled goods on the growth of local production. But it is problematic that sub-regional economic activity and trade should suffer because of domestic institutional weaknesses.
He said Nigeria must invest in strengthening its institutions and systems that are responsible for preventing the importation of illegal or prohibited goods.
Speaking on the theme, ‘Beyond politics: An economic narrative for West Africa’, Mahama said Nigeria must as priority, aggressively pursue a gas-to-power policy and stop the flaring of almost 300 billion standard cubic feet of gas per annum representing a loss of almost $700 million a year.
“Africa must support the Inga dam and other potential hydro power projects, which could bring about an additional 40,000 MW of power to South, East, West and Central African economies.”
He decried infrastructural deficit in Africa stating that, sometimes, trade between African countries is curtailed because there is just no transport link between them.
“Where the roads exist, they are in many cases so bad that they do not facilitate efficient exchange of goods between them. West Africa must consider a ‘Roll-on Roll-off’ ferry between coastal countries. This kind of service is used as an efficient and cheap transport link in many parts of Asia and Europe.”
“As the largest economy in West Africa, I believe it is not by accident that Nigeria is home to the headquarters of the Economic Community of West Africa States. The import of the following quote from the objective principles for establishment of ECOWAS cannot be lost on us”, he added.
He said since the signing of the AfCFTA however, developments in the two biggest African economies have been worrying. The attacks and expulsion of foreigners from South Africa has been, indeed, most unfortunate considering her history.
“Africa stood in solidarity with South Africa in the struggle against apartheid. It is a slap in the face to see the lynching of fellow Africans as a result of the recent waves of xenophobia in that country. Off course, one does not advocate that foreigners engaged in criminal activity must be entertained in any country.
“Such persons must be arrested, prosecuted and deported by the security enforcement agencies. But where the presence of such persons is legal and are based on a positive investment in the economy, they must not be persecuted and killed on any basis.”
“As a former Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, I have an abiding interest in the progress of ECOWAS and its people. I believe that as an economic and regional bloc, a lot of economic opportunities are available to us, and we must take advantage of them.”
Vice President, Islamic Development Bank, Dr Mansur Muhtar, said focused, credible, trustworthy and effective leadership is key to achieving economic development.
According to him, key leadership task is providing an inspiring vision and instilling in the mindsets of Nigerians, a compelling need for change, anchored on a unity of purpose.
Muhtar who is also the former minister of finance, said trust-building measures are needed in current trust-deficit environment arising from legacy of past leadership and misrule.
He said rebuilding/strengthening human capital investment in health and education is key to unlocking economic growth potential and supporting diversification through developing a productive work force.
He added that government must pay more attention to the neglected area of technical and vocational education, to impart relevant skills and bridge jobs-skills mismatch; promote science, technology and innovation to leapfrog into the fourth industrial revolution.
Former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, said the world is moving out from oil and Nigeria should not be left out.
He said Nigeria needs to invest in the future, while stressing the need for government to increase investments in education.
He condemned electoral violence whereby weapons are given to people to cause trouble while stressing the need for transformational leadership.