Minister of finance, budget and national planning, Hajiya Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed has attributed the slight increase in inflation in the nation’s economy to the closure of Nigeria’s borders with the neighbouring countries, even as her counterpart in the ministry of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed disagreed.
At a news briefing shortly after the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), today, November 27, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the finance minister said: “the slight increase in this inflation between September and October is due to food inflation. The food inflation we are ascribing 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 percent and it grew to about 18 percent in January 2017 when we were in recession.
“The relationship between inflation, interest rates and growth is managed by the monetary authorities and is a management that is tracked on a regular basis.”
But, the information minister quickly chipped in to say: “the issue of border closure and I think it will be quite misleading and will not save the real purpose of our headlines tomorrow is that inflation is as a result of border closure.
“The border closure, frankly speaking, is what we needed to do and we had to do it. We cannot continue to subsidize the rest of West Africa. And the benefits of border closure for me, I think, far surpass the very little increase in inflation. We have been able to save about 30 percent from our fuel consumption which means that over time we have been subsidizing the fuel consumption of other countries.”
Lai Mohammed said that within the last three months, Nigerian government had been able to increase by 15 percent duties collected from and that 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, please let’s respect the protocol on transit. ECOWAS set up a protocol on transit 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 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… and the protocol said, you cannot break the seal, you cannot open the container. But what has been happening over the years is that our neigbours will translate the container, put about five containers on one truck and drive it to the border as if it is only one container that they are going to pay duties on. Worse still, less than even 50 percent of what is meant for Nigeria will come through the approved border.
“So, what we have done and it has maximum effect, is to ask our neigbours to respect the protocol on transit. If they do that, the borders will be opened. But you cannot continue to play the big brother at the expense of national security and at the expense of our national economy.”