By Kemi Yesufu
The continued closure of Nigeria’s land boarders caused tempers to flare during the siting of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament on Wednesday.
Aggrieved members of the regional parliament took turn to criticize Nigeria for keeping its boarders shut against its neighbors following the presentation of the country report by the Nigerian delegation to the ECOWAS Parliament led Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Rep. Ahmed Idris Wase.
Wase had explained as part of Nigeria’s report at the Second Ordinary Session of the parliament that despite of the checks put in place by the government, imported rice dominated markets in the country with local rice producers losing out.
“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 stated that smuggled items are used as cover up for other illicit items like hard drugs, which had led to the numerous challenges in the country.
But the Deputy Speaker’s presentation didn’t sit well with his ECOWAS colleague, who 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 Nigeria’s boarder has affected Ghana’s trade.
He told the parliament that 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.
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.
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.