The issue of border closure was the subject of conversation at yesterday’s LEADERSHIP Conference and Awards ceremony, with economic experts and informed stakeholders expressing their views on the propriety and benefits of the federal government’s policy.
Discussions at the annual event unanimously pointed to federal government’s decision to close the country’s land borders as one of the strongest impressions the Buhari administration has made.
Guests at the magnificent auditorium of the International Conference Centre (ICC), venue of the conference and awards ceremony, listened with rapt attention as eminent personalities added their perspectives on the theme of this year’s edition of the annual event: “The Economics of Border Closure”.
Speaking at the event, former vice president and chairman of the occasion, Architect Namadi Sambo, said against the backdrop of insecurity, human and drugs trafficking and smuggling of illegal firearms, among other menaces that threaten national stability, President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive that the nation’s borders should be closed is one of the most impactful policies of the current administration.
Sambo noted that the choice of this year’s theme of the conference and awards ceremony was apt as it was coming barely seven months after the closure of the country’s borders.
“The choice of this year’s theme, ‘The Economics of Border Closure’ is indeed very apt. The border closure remains one of the most impactful policies of the Buhari-led administration that seeks to curb the challenges of smuggling of firearms and drugs, human trafficking, trans-border insurgency among several infractions that have continued to threaten the peace, stability and economy of Nigeria as a nation,” he stated.
He added that the management of LEADERSHIP Group Ltd deserved commendation for the noble initiative of organising the annual conference and awards, which he described as prestigious.
Noting that the conference and awards ceremony had become an agenda-setting platform for national discourse over the years, the former VP said, “Today’s event is a deliberate attempt by the organisers to recognise excellence and promote hard work in both the public and private sectors towards nation building and humanity.
“Let me therefore formally begin by congratulating the award recipients for being found worthy for the LEADERSHIP Awards. It goes without saying that the event for which we are here assembled is one of the most prestigious and the most sought after of its kind anywhere in the country.
“Also worthy of note is the annual conference which has become an agenda setting process by the LEADERSHIP Newspapers. Beyond the traditional role of the media to educate, enlighten and entertain the public, also lies the responsibility to set an agenda for national discourse. That is evident in the commendable efforts of LEADERSHIP Newspapers since its inception”.
The managing director and chief executive officer of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), Mr Uche Orji, reassured that the recent crash in the price of oil was a temporary setback that would soon be a thing of the past.
To the current crash in oil price, I say this too shall come to pass”, Orji, who was the guest speaker at this year’s LEADERSHIP conference and awards ceremony said.
He noted that Nigeria’s border closure demonstrated the implementation gap that has continued to exist between the texts of regional or international trade agreements, and the actual measures that some African governments adopt.
He pointed out that recent developments following the border closure suggest that many African countries were worrisomely unprepared to implement their African Continental Free Trade Agreements (AfCFTA) commitments when it goes into effect.
According to him, border closure across the globe was nothing unusual, especially following the recent coronavirus pandemic that has sent panic across countries.
He explained that ports were even more critical in a developing country like Nigeria, saying they facilitate economic growth and promote social development and prosperity.
He described the recent action of the federal government against the country’s recalcitrant neighbours like Benin Republic as a boost for the country’s domestic producers.
According to him, until the closure, investment in Nigerian agriculture was being hamstrung by trafficking, especially in rice which is estimated to reach two million tonnes a year.
He added that since the closure, locally-milled rice has started selling, and the entire rice value chain has been positively impacted.
Orji further said that the country has seen a quantum leap in domestic fertiliser production since the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) was initiated with the revival of almost 18 blending plants producing a lot of the NPK in the country.
To make the border closure work, the NISA boss advised that the country must implement a national trading platform, boost her savings base, improve domestic manufacturing, ensure a more efficient security at the border and all necessary assistance given to local manufacturers to thrive and reap the gains of the closure.
He said to prevent the AfCFTA from entering the history books as yet another set of failed aspirations, it was imperative that African leaders signal they are committed to implementing it, matching their words with concrete deeds to effectively affect intra-regional trade and development outcomes.
Orji warned that without the willingness by countries to take seriously commitments made under the AfCFTA and match their words with concrete deeds, the AfCFTA risks not being the game changer it could be.
He said AFCFTA must be balanced and Nigeria would also need to build necessary ports infrastructure required to handle prospective growth in international trade as this would enhance the productive capacity of the nation and improve the prosperity of its citizens with lower costs.
We Must Consume What We Produce – Ayade
Also speaking, Cross River State governor, Prof Ben Ayade said with the effect of Coronavarius currently ravaging the world’s economy and killing people, the federal government should consider isolation in trade and ensure that Nigerians only consume what they can produce.
Ayade who was conferred with the LEADERSHIP Governor of the Year 2019 award at the event said, “While coronavirus have taken 8,000 lives globally, hunger takes about 8 million daily. Hunger is a product of lack of food. Lack of food is a product of poor agricultural practice and so food security is at the peace centre of governance.
“Any government structure that does not reflect and intensify on the value of mankind and put dignity to humanity would have failed. Time has come for Nigerians to know that this country cannot continue to survive with continued importation.
“We just closed our entry points due to coronavarius and let’s assume that we continue for two months, this country will run out of food and drugs. So, it is time isolationism becomes our new philosophy and Nigeria should only consume that that we produce. So, we are focusing on agriculture and industrial revolution has equally started. We will move into heavy industries, ICT and 3d printings.”
He further stated that no amount of infrastructure can be equivalent to the structure and value of mankind, noting that as a government Cross River State is focused on it citizens, which explains why agro-industrial revolution has become the key point of his administration.
The governor continued: “We are happy to announce that over 33 factories have been built in less than five years and we are hoping to do more. Let me also add that our brothers in Northern Nigeria, who also face challenging circumstance to grow crops but unfortunately cannot export, have solid minerals they cannot export, have such vast resources that if harnessed, the Northern part of Nigeria can be wealthier than the southern part but unfortunately, cannot because of access road, the construction of the super highway is important and critical for the people of Northern part of Nigeria to move their goods through the super highway and export to other countries.
“Against that background, it will enable them also to export their solid minerals and we believe that Cross River State is the gateway to Lagos.”
It’s Time To Reopen The Borders And Force Our Neighbours To Peg Their Currencies To The Naira – Nda-Isaiah
On his part, chairman of LEADERSHIP Group Limited, Mr Sam Nda-Isaiah, declared that it was time for the federal government to reopen the country’s borders and force its neighbours to peg their currencies to the naira.
He explained that if the country insists and put adequate structures on ground, other West African nations might even key into it.
In his welcome address, Nda-Isaiah hailed the decision of the federal government to close the land borders, saying it was an excellent idea.
He said, “Now is the time to move to the next level. Now that it is clear to all that the West African economy is totally dependent on the Nigerian economy, it is time to reopen the borders and dominate the region.
“We must now force our neighbours to peg their currencies to the naira, and if we insist and put the structures on ground, they might even like it. And any country that does not play ball completely should be shut out again.
“The economic and political benefits of such action can only be imagined. Another reason to reopen the borders at this point is that those whose duty it is to man the borders, especially the Customs people, have turned the border closure into a personal advantage. The closed borders are now their personal toll gates. That should not be allowed to continue.”
Nda-Isaiah noted, while lessons have been learnt, Nigeria has shown its mettle as a regional superpower.
He observed that the very bold decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to shut Nigerian borders had been commended even by some of his greatest detractors like former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
He continued: “So, it was an excellent idea that the borders were closed. Lessons have been learnt and we have shown our mettle as a regional superpower. The very bold decision of the president to shut Nigerian borders has been commended even by some of his greatest detractors like former President Obasanjo, even though he himself did not do it when he was president.
“We have seen the positive effects. For too long, our neighbours have taken us for granted. You can imagine the entire economy of a country, Benin Republic, built on smuggling into Nigeria. Benin Republic built a special port for that. That country is probably the greatest economic saboteur of the Nigerian nation.”
On the conference and awards ceremony, the chairman said LEADERSHIP had continued to maintain its very high standard and integrity because of the painstaking thoroughness its board of editors and top management put into the assignment.
He said every nomination was interrogated both intensively and extensively within the context of the nomination, adding that sometimes additional research was done before conclusions are reached.
“We also test our results with knowledgeable and independent outsiders. I would, therefore, like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the award winners of this year. You have joined the exclusive club of past awardees, which has as its members President Muhammadu Buhari, President Goodluck Jonathan, General TY Danjuma, Imam Abdullahi Abubakar, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Justice Aloma Mukhtar, Godwin Emefiele, Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, Professor Attahiru Jega, Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar, Cardinal Onaiyekan, and a host of others,” he noted.
We Shall Overcome The Current Crisis In The Oil Sector – Mele Kyari
Also Speaking, the group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mallam Mele Kyari, assured Nigerians the current predicament facingthe country due to the global glut in crude oil prices will be over soon.
Although Kyari acknowledged that the country now faces tough times, he however expressed confidence that with good leadership in place, the country will overcome.
He said, “These are very tough times for our country and for the world. Even before Coronavirus there were clear indications that the global economy is facing challenges. Now it is further complicated by the challenge thrown up by the Coronavirus effect which has translated into demand loss, production losses of every kind and also disruption in the supply chain of many countries.
“That means we are challenged today and we need to respond to this. And that response requires leadership and leadership doesn’t come from the blues; it comes from people, it comes from commitment, it comes from history”.
Applauding LEADERSHIP for setting the agenda and rewarding proficiency in leadership, Kyari said, “I can understand why we are here today is to acknowledge that some people provided leadership. They served in their areas of endeavour and they contributed to nation building and we are still relating with them so that we can walk away from this situation that we have found ourselves. It is very worthwhile that we should recognize and reward this category of people.”
On the contribution of his predecessor, Dr Maikanti Baru, who was honoured with the LEADERSHIP CEO of the Year award, Kyari said, “One of them is Dr Maikanti Baru. We in NNPC are very proud of him. He has remained a symbol of encouragement, of the quality of efficiency which we try to imbibe and we will do our best to make sure that we deliver on the task that he has left for us to handle. It is tough but we will do our best.”
He tasked other award recipients to bring their wealth of leadership to bear in trying to help the nation come out of the current crisis.
I Dedicate My Award To The Teeming Labourers, Workers And Civil Servants In Adamawa State – Gov Fintiri
Governor of Adamawa State, Alhaji Ahmadu Fintiri, has described the LEADERSHIP Governor of the Year award conferred on him award by LEADERSHIP as a call to do more for the people of his state.
Governor Fintiri, who came to the award and conference ceremony with large entourage, expressed gratitude to God and the LEADERSHIP Group for finding him worthy of this prestigious award.
”I’m grateful for the great recognition in just for 100 days in office. I think it is unprecedented for LEADERSHIP Newspaper and Nigerians to recognize the excellent policies and programmes that were deployed through the 11 point agenda in our state to deepening democracy and providing good governance.
”I want to dedicate this award to all my drivers, cleaners, all staff members, House of Assembly members, the workers of Adamawa State as well as the good people of Adamawa State. I dedicate this award to you all.
”I think this is a challenge to enable us to work harder than what we’ve being doing in order to restore the dignity of Adamawa state to ensure that we are one of the best in the sub-sahara Africa region under my leadership and we will ensure that we deepen democracy and we will make our state better”.
We’ll Continue To Serve Our People, Say Badaru, Oloyede
The registrar of Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) Prof Ishaq Oloyede, has said that he will not relent in the service rendered to the people.
Also, the Jigawa State governor, Mohammed Abubakar Badaru, said he was committed to delivering dividend of democracy to the people.
The duo spoke yesterday during the annual conference and award ceremony of LEADERSHIP Newspaper held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
Oloyede received the LEADERSHIP Person of the Year award said, “On behalf of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, let me thank the LEADERSHIP Newspaper and all that have hour us today with the award.
“We pledge ones again to continue not to relent in the service of humanity. We thank you all”.
On his part, Jigawa State governor, Mohammed Abubakar Badaru, who was represented by the Speaker, Jigawa State House of Assembly, Idris Garba, said the award will spur him to do more for his people.
Badaru who was honoured as LEADERSHIP Governor of the said his first term in office witnessed a recession which Jigawa State came out strong from, adding that the current economic problem caused by coronavirus will soon disappear.
He assured the people of Jigawa of his continued support that will lead to economic prosperity of the state and Nigeria at large.
Huawei To Help FG Achieve Digital Target
As the world continues to grapple with the Coronavirus pandemic, Chinese multinational technology company with very strong presence in Nigeria, Huawei Technologies Limited, said the pandemic will not affect its business in Nigeria.
The company’s media and communications manager, Emmanuel Adereti, spoke in an exclusive chat with LEADERSHIP after receiving the Telecom Company of the Year award at the LEADERSHIP conference and awards ceremony yesterday.
Adereti said the company’s products and services will not be affected by the pandemic, saying its ongoing projects will continue, even as there are plans to firm up precautionary measures to keep its staff and management safe.
He stated: “From what we see generally, the Coronavirus has really affected trade and investment all over the world. This is not peculiar to Huawei. The good thing is that our business still continues in Nigeria; we still ensure that the projects we are currently running are running.
“However, we definitely will ensure that we stick with every precautionary measure which is laid down by the country and other countries of the word while distributing our products. Definitely, it is not business as usual but we can’t deny the fact that this is a pandemic and it is important that we take precautionary measures”.