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Cross-border trade with Niger a messy bottleneck

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Even though borders with Niger have reopened, traders in Borno State say security officials are stopping their vehicles from crossing into the neighbouring country, negatively affecting business.

Despite the reopening of land and air borders between Nigeria and the Niger Republic in March – and the lifting of economic sanctions – traders in Borno State say their vehicles are still being stopped and they are able to cross into the neighbouring country only on foot.

This is hampering their ability to trade and is having a negative effect on their livelihoods.

President Bola Tinubu directed the reopening of borders with Niger on March 13 in compliance with decisions taken at an extraordinary summit of heads of state and government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on February 24.

The move was expected to revive cross-border trade, particularly in agricultural products and livestock.

ECOWAS imposed the measures following the July 26, 2023, military coup that ousted Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s democratically elected leader.

The sanctions, which included closing borders, cutting off the electricity supply and threatening the military junta with the use of “force”, were introduced to have Bazoum reinstated and restore democratic order to Niger.

But the measures, implemented in August last year, failed to achieve their aims and the border closure devastated trade between communities on both sides.

People in border communities were cut off from all traditional trading and socioeconomic activities.

Five of Niger’s eight regions – Zinder, Tahoua, Maradi, Dosso and Diffa – border Nigeria.

The ECOWAS sanctions effectively stopped trade overnight. Illegal border crossings were the only option available to traders.

But traders, drivers and passengers from Borno State told RNI that even though reopening the borders and lifting sanctions was supposed to take place “with immediate effect”, their vehicles are still being stopped and they are allowed to cross into Niger only by foot.

They are calling on the federal government to facilitate the full implementation of reopening the borders to allow the free flow of trading and business activities.

Abubakar Modu, a commercial driver in Borno State, told RNI that commercial drivers who conveyed goods and passengers were unable to drive across the border.

“Security operatives from both countries are not allowing vehicles to cross the border despite the official reopening. This is really affecting our means of making a livelihood. We are calling on the governments of both countries to review the situation. The borders need to be fully reopened for motorists and traders.”

Modu said that before the borders were ordered to be reopened commercial drivers usually stopped at Damasak in the Mobbar Local Government Area. From there traders and passengers would “trek on foot across the border into Niger”.

“We are still having to do this. It means the scale of trade is extremely limited. Traders are only able to take goods they can carry.”

Mohammed Goni, also a trader in Borno State, told RNI that there were “serious” challenges and bottlenecks.

“It is extremely difficult to conduct business activities. As a major trader, I deal in large quantities. But security officials are not allowing trucks or any other kind of commercial vehicles through.

“We can cross the border on foot to sell goods. But I cannot trade effectively by doing that. I thought things would go back to normal once the borders were reopened. The partial reopening is affecting my earnings.

“When ECOWAS imposed sanctions on Niger, trading was crippled. Now we are supposed to be able to trade again but we still face challenges and difficulties.

“It is in the interests of the country to fully reopen the borders to restore and revive trade with Niger and allow for the free flow of economic activities.”



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