The days of heaping 50-kilo sacks of rice across the saddle of their motorbike and slipping a few notes to a customs officer are now gone.
With Nigeria having snapped its borders shut, the legions of motorbike riders who used to satisfy the nation’s hunger for imported rice are lucky at best to sneak through a few packets of Basmati.
The smugglers risk more than just jail time if they try to force or sneak across the border.
“They shoot us and kill us like goats,” said Adewole, who asked for his full name not to be published, stuttering with anger.
The some 3,000 sacks of rice per day that motorbike riders estimate they previously smuggled across the border from Benin have slowed to a trickle.
As a result, the price of rice has skyrocketed, from ₦9,000 for a 50-kilo sack, to ₦22,000, a price higher than Nigeria’s minimum monthly wage of ₦18,000.
The border closure is part of President Muhammadu Buhari’s plan to end Nigeria’s economic dependence on oil, by developing domestic agriculture and industry.
With cheap goods — smuggled or imported — long having hampered domestic producers, Buhari ordered a partial closure of the border with Benin in August.
This month, the borders with all neighbouring countries have been shut completely.
“The Nigerian borders will remain closed until the countries sharing borders with Nigeria” accept conditions put in place for the country’s economic policies on what is imported, warned Hameed Ali, comptroller general of the Nigeria Customs Service.
Analyst Adedayo Ademuwagun, of the Lagos-based consultancy Songhai, called the border closure an “extreme level protectionist policy”.
He said that the move was built on the idea that, instead of encouraging development with incentives, one can bring it about by necessity.
“They expect that by creating a gap in the supply, the industry should grow,” said Ademuwagun.
“But it’s not what’s happening.”
Nigeria has pursued this type of development strategy before, with some success.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was in office from 1999 to 2007, banned cement imports.
That helped local producers flourish, including Obasanjo protege Aliko Dangote, who now heads a multi-billion-dollar cement empire.
‘Not an island’ –
Buhari may have trouble repeating that outcome, however, as the situation with rice shows.
Nigeria has been ramping up rice production, with local output rising by 60 per cent since 2013, according to official figures, although specialists say they are inflated.
But at 4.8 million tonnes last year, local rice production was still not enough for the 190 million Nigerians, who spend about a tenth of their food budget on the staple.
Beyond quantity, there is also the issue of quality.
“It’s the imported rice people love,” said one trader at the market in Badagry, a coastal town between the capital Lagos and Benin.
“Nigerian rice is not good enough and too expensive.”
If you can get it.
The border closure means Nigeria is choked off from supplies until the next harvest by local farmers.
The Badagry market, usually teeming with activity thanks to its location near the border, now lacks its usual hubbub.
Not only is there almost no rice to be had, there is almost no macaroni, cooking oil, or sugar either.
“We can’t depend only on local production,” said market director Todowede Baba Oja.
“No one is on an island. We depend on one another. This suffering is getting out of hand.”
Even the butcher who sells locally-produced beef is having trouble, as his customers have little left for meat after paying higher prices for staples.
People have “no more money”, he said.
Nigeria to sign military cooperation deal with Russia
Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari is due to meet Putin on the sidelines of a Russia-Africa summit in Sochi
Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari hopes to sign a military-technical cooperation deal with Russia at talks with President Vladimir Putin this month that will help it fight Boko Haram militants.
The Nigerian leader is due to meet Putin on the sidelines of a Russia-Africa summit in the Black Sea city of Sochi amid a push by Moscow to expand its influence in Africa.
“We’re sure that with Russian help we’ll manage to crush Boko Haram, given Russia’s experience combating Islamic State in Syria,” Nigerian envoy, Steve Ugbah said in an interview with Russia’s RIA news agency, adding that Nigeria was interested in purchasing Russian helicopters, planes, tanks and other military equipment.
Ugbah says a military-technical cooperation deal between Russia and Nigeria had already been drafted and that it is awaiting finalisation.
“We hope President Buhari can take the talks to their logical end. The agreement will open new possibilities in such areas as the supply of military equipment and training for specialists,” he adds.
Nigeria, Cameroon to plan Cocoa price cartel
The plan suggested by Nigeria is part of a trend by cocoa growers in West Africa and Latin America
Nigeria aims to team up with Cameroon to agree on a premium for its cocoa with buyers, after the world’s top growers, Ivory Coast and Ghana set a price floor for the crop.
The plan suggested by Nigeria, the world’s fourth-largest cocoa producer, is part of a trend which has seen growers in West Africa and Latin America seek to influence prices in the global market.
The move follows Ghana and Ivory Coast’s union in July, which set the price for a ton of cocoa from their countries at $2,600 plus a $400 premium described as “living income differential”.
Both countries produced 60 per cent of the world’s cocoa in 2018.
Vice President of the World Cocoa Producers Organisation, Sayina Riman says discussions will be held with the private sector and the Nigerian Government before formal talks are held with Cameroon.
Exxon to invest $500 million in Mozambique LNG project
Construction of onshore facilities has been awarded to a consortium led by Japan’s JGC, U.K firm TechnipFMC and U.S. company, Fluor Corp
Exxon Mobil plans to invest more than $500 million in the initial construction phase of its liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Mozambique.
The U.S. oil company’s $30 billion Rovuma LNG project, jointly operated with Italy’s Eni, has a capacity of more than 15 million tonnes a year (mtpa) and is set to pump much-needed cash into the country’s ailing economy.
“The Area 4 partners will advance midstream and upstream area project activities of more than $500 million as initial investments,” Exxon head of power and gas marketing, Peter Clarke told a ceremony in Mozambique’s capital Maputo on Tuesday.
Construction of onshore facilities has been awarded to a consortium led by Japan’s JGC, U.K firm TechnipFMC and U.S. company, Fluor Corp.
“These EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contracts cover the construction of two natural gas production trains with a total capacity of 15.2 million tons per annum, as well as associated onshore facilities,” Clarke adds.
Final investment decisions, a term used by the oil industry to mean the commercial and regulatory aspects of a project are finalised, will be made in 2020.
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