The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament went in rowdy session over the closure of Nigeria’ borders.
The rowdy session followed the presentation of the country’s report by the Nigerian delegation to the ECOWAS Parliament led Ahmed Idris Wase at the ongoing Second Ordinary Session of the parliament in Abuja.
The Deputy Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives stated that prior to the current operation at the nation’s borders, the Federal Government had in 2016 banned the importation of rice.
Wase added that in spite of the checks put in place by the government, Nigerian markets continued to witness imported rice which rendered locally-produced rice very unattractive to buyers.
“Most of the smuggled goods are not part of the legal items captured under the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS), but rather, imports from such as rice produced in Thailand and Vietnam, imported into Benin which find their way into Nigeria through smuggling,” Wase said.
Wase further said such goods were accompanied by other illicit items like hard drugs, which had led to the numerous challenges in the country.
Following the presentation, lawmakers from other countries descended on the report, expressing their displeasure over the development.
They argued that the border closure by the Federal Government was against the spirit of the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons and Goods.
The Ghanaian delegation led by Hon Kwasi Ameyaw Cheremeh, stated that the closure of the borders had become a major issue affecting Ghana’s trade.
The lawmaker added that several trucks from Ghana had been stranded at the Seme side of the border for over two months, even as he said Ghanaian trucks returning from Nigeria with goods had not been able to cross the border.
He further said that in as much as Nigeria claimed that the closure was not targeted at Ghana, but based on security concerns with neighbouring Benin Republic, Ghana had indicated to Nigeria that the closure had impacted negatively on its export and imports to and from Nigeria.
On his part, the leader of the Gambian delegation to the ECOWAS Parliament, Hon Kebba Barrow, said Gambia had continued to follow the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of People and the right to reside and establish, urging Nigeria to copy its example.
Also, the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Moustapha Cisse Lo, reiterated his condemnation of the closure of the Nigerian borders.
“I reiterate my call for the re-opening of the borders between our states and the observance of the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons and Goods in the ECOWAS region, which aims to facilitate trade liberalisation and the removal of trade barriers between our states and our peoples,” Lo said.