The Federal Government admitted on Wednesday that its temporary policy to close land borders was responsible for the current rising inflation in the country.
But it still defended the closure, insisting that it would remain in place until the country’s neighbours learnt to respect trade protocols.
The FG said it had to close borders because Nigeria could not continue to subsidise economies of her neighbours.
Nigeria had in August closed its land borders on the grounds that smuggling of goods from its neighbouring countries was hurting its economy.
On November 4, the Federal Government listed five conditions for reopening the country’s land borders.
As one of the conditions, the government said Nigeria would not accept imported goods that were repackaged by neigbouring countries and brought to Nigeria.
But since the border closure, headline inflation rose to 11.61 per cent as of October from the 11.24 per cent recorded in September.
On Wednesday, Ahmed told State House correspondents that inflation rose due to hikes in food prices arising from the closure of the borders.
She was responding to questions after Wednesday’s Federal Executive Council meeting ended in Abuja.The FEC meeting was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
However, the minister stated that the border closure was a temporary measure adopted by the government to protect the economy against trade malpractices by neighbouring countries and would be reopened when all of Nigeria’s demands were met.
She gave details, “On inflation, headline inflation declined every month for several months before we noticed an optic in the last two months. And now, headline inflation is at about 11:61 per cent as of the end of October.
“The slight increase in this inflation between September and October is due to food inflation. The food inflation relates to prices of cereals, rice and fish. And part of the reason is the border closure.
“But, the border closure is very, very short and temporary and the increase is just about two-basis point. Remember, there was a time inflation was nine per cent and it grew to about 18 per cent in January 2017 when we were in recession.
“The relationship between inflation, interest rate and growth is managed by the monetary authorities and is a management that is tracked on a regular basis.
“So, if you reduce interest rate, you expect more borrowing for investments in the real sector. But, at the same time, that also has the tendency of reducing money that is used for consumption on a day to day basis.
“So, it is a balance that we continue to watch on a regular basis. We expect that this will be moderated as border closure impact fizzles out and also as the monetary authorities continue to support the MPR (monetary policy rate), therefore ensuring that interest rates are not on the high side.”
Ahmed insisted that the government had little choice but to shut the borders else Nigerians would suffer the economic consequences, especially now that the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement was coming into effect.
“What we are doing is important for our economy. We signed up to the ACFTA; we have to make sure that we put in place checks to make sure that our economy will not be overrun as a result of the coming into effect of the ACFTA.
“That is why we have this border closure to return to the discipline of respecting the protocols that we all committed to”, the minister added.
On his part, the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, explained that the gains of the border closure outweighed any other impact it might have caused, adding that Nigeria was subsidising the rest of West Africa.
He argued that the practice of importing goods into neighbouring West African countries and re-packaging them for Nigeria to look as if they were manufactured in such countries was not healthy for Nigeria’s economy.
Mohammed disclosed that up till Tuesday this week, Nigeria and and its neighbours were still engaged in discussions on why it was important for all the parties to respect the ECOWAS trade protocol on transit of goods.
He said, “The border closure, frankly speaking, is what we needed to do and we had to do it. We cannot continue to subsidise the rest of West Africa. And the benefits for border closure for me, I think far surpass the very little increase in inflation.
“We have been able to save about 30 per cent from our fuel consumption, which means that over time we have been subsidising the fuel consumption of other countries. Within the last three months, we have been able to increase by 15 per cent, duties collected from imports.
“Within the same period, we have been able to drastically reduce the volumes of arms and ammunition that have been coming into the country through smuggling, ditto with illicit drugs.
“All Nigeria is saying is, please, let’s respect the protocol on transit. ECOWAS set up a protocol on transit of goods, which is very simple. If a container meant for Nigeria is dropped in Cotonou, the authorities in Benin Republic should escort the container to the customs in Seme border, and that way proper duty will be levied and will be paid.
“But, on the contrary, what we have seen happening over the years is that our neighbours will put about five containers on one truck and drive them to the border as if it is only one container that they are going to pay duties on. Worse still, less than even 50 per cent of what is meant for Nigeria will come through the approved border.”
Drama as DSS Officers Engage Sowore in Scuffle in Attempt to Rearrest Him
A mid drama ensued inside the courtroom this morning as men believed to be officers of the Department of State Service made attempt to rearrest the RevolutionNow protest convener, Omoyele Sowore.
Sowore was released around 7pm on Thursday following an ultimatum issued by the court.
Ex-Abia State Gov, Uzor Kalu Bags 12 Years Imprisonment for Graft
The Federal High Court in Lagos has sentenced a former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, to a maximum of 12 years imprisonment for N7.65bn fraud, among other multiple sentences ranging from 3 years to 5 years on 27 counts.
Justice Mohammad Idris also convicted and sentenced his two other accomplices who were also found guilty of N7.65bn fraud.
They got multiple sentences between 10 years and 3 years.
Kalu’s co-defendants are his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited; and Udeh Udeogu, who was Director of Finance and Accounts at the Abia State Government House during Kalu’s tenure as governor.
The judge also ordered that Slok be wound up and its assets forfeited to the Federal Government.
Saraki’s Ordeal Continues as Court Orders Forfeiture of Houses to FG
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Monday secured an order of the Federal High Court in Lagos for the forfeiture of two houses in Ilorin, Kwara State, belonging to a former Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
The EFCC told the court it uncovered monumental fraud perpetrated in the treasury of the Kwara State Government between 2003 and 2011, when Saraki was the governor of the state.
Based on an ex parte application filed by the EFCC pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act No. 14, 2006, Justice Rilwan Aikawa ordered the temporary forfeiture of Saraki’s two properties designated as Plots No. 10 and No. 11 Abdulkadir Road, GRA, Ilorin, Kwara State.
An operative of the EFCC, Olamide Sadiq, said in an affidavit filed in support of the ex parte application that the EFCC moved to have the two houses forfeited after investigating “the report of a committee set up to review sales of Kwara State Government properties during the reign of the Governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.”
Sadiq said the EFCC also received “a damning intelligence report, showing monumental fraud perpetrated in the treasury of the Kwara State Government between 2003 and 2011.”
He said, “Whilst the investigation was ongoing, several fraudulent transactions were discovered.
“I know for a fact and verily believe that our investigation has revealed the following mind-boggling findings, among others:
“That between 2003 and 2011, Dr Olubukola Abubakar Saraki was the Executive Governor of Kwara State.
“That whilst he held the aforementioned position, the common pattern was that after the payment of monthly allocation by the Federal Government to the Kwara State Government, a cumulative sum of not less than N100m would be deposited into the Kwara Government House account.
“That upon the payment of the said N100m, same would, in turn, be withdrawn in cash by one Mr Afeez Yusuf from the Kwara State Government House, Ilorin’s account in bits and brought to the Government House.”
The EFCC said it believed that Saraki developed the two properties with proceeds of unlawful activities.
Counsel for the commission, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, urged Justice Aikawa to order their temporary forfeiture to the Federal Government.
After granting the order as prayed, Justice Aikawa directed the EFCC to publish the temporary forfeiture order in a national newspaper and adjourned till December 17 for anyone interested in the properties to appear before him to show cause why the properties should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
Reacting to the judgment, Saraki maintained his position that the application to the Federal High Court, Lagos, for interim forfeiture order on his Ilorin home by the EFCC was an abuse of the court process and a violation of a subsisting order of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Saraki in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, vowed to challenge the verdict at a higher court of competent jurisdiction.