By Francis Ogwo
Cheers, knocks and mixed feelings have greeted the reopening of Nigeria’s land borders on Wednesday by President Muhammadu Buhari after one year of its closure.
Recall that the Federal Government had closed the borders with neighbouring West African countries as a measure towards curbing the increasing menace of cross border smuggling.
KaftanPost got the views of some poultry products, frozen foods dealers and cross border business owners.
Mrs Anozie sells frozen chicken and eggs in the Abule Egba area of Lagos. According to her, the demand for Nigerian chicken had increased within the period of closure.
“Before now we sold more of the foreign Cotonou chicken which the border smugglers brought for us. Gradually, we changed our stock to Nigerian chicken because customers demanded more of them.
“At the moment our major stock have been the Nigerian chicken which customers say are softer. We don’t know of there is going to be a likely shift of preference now that the borders have been reopened. But for now, we have adjusted to the choice of the market,” Anozie concluded.
Ephraim Amos (real names withheld) runs a small poultry in the Ogun State neighborhood of Oke Around and said he began the poultry when smuggling became more dangerous for him. He lamented that he had run down financially since the border closure.
“I used to be a ‘fayawo’ (smuggler). The work became more risky for us when the border was closed. We usually drove through the Idi Iroko border into Lagos and made huge profits. I wasn’t the owner of the vehicle but made enough money to build a small apartment on a plot of land where we are currently using as a poultry farm and residence now.
“The customs became too hard on us when the routes became empty. Most times they would outrightly seize our vehicles loaded with rice, tomato pastes, fish,oil and chicken leading to some of the frozen foods getting spoilt.
“They most times threatened to jail us that we smuggle weapons which led us to pull away into other businesses. I gradually started this farm. I don’t know if I may go back to the smuggling because I am beginning to find this poultry business interesting,” Ephraim added with an ear to ear grin.
The business of grill in similar vein had grown over the years in Lagos. This is largely due to the nightlife structure of the state which has had a proliferation of nightclubs, event centers and bars. Owners who spoke to KaftanPost also said there have been change in preferences from customers.
This was the view shared by Janet Akor who makes Shawarma and Chicken in Ifako Ijaiye area of Lagos State.
Janet said: “I have been running this business for the past three years now. The chicken we used was the big foreign chicken (orobo) which are usually imported and other foreign ones from Europe.
“At the moment, my customers come to ask of the soft Nigerian chicken and I sell more. Infact, I hardly have left overs of my soft chicken.
One man’s meat, they say, is another’s poison. This has been the development since the borders were closed. While Nigerians applauded the development as a boost to local production, Lagos residents from neighboring towns of Cotonou in Benin Republic also lamented the impact of the border closure.
A middle aged man who prefers to be called Hallelujah Solomon claims to be from Benin republic and rides commercial tricycle popularly called Keke Marwa. In his views, Nigeria was selfish with the border closure and made some of us in Cotonou angrily boycott businesses owned by Nigerians in Cotonou.
“Most of our shops around Seme and Badagry closed down within the last one year. Many of our people changed their lines of businesses from provisions to farming and other small businesses.
“It wasn’t easy as Nigeria was one of our major business outlets for foodstuffs. I left Cotonou to Nigeria to survive and ended up riding tricycle. If Nigeria doesn’t change the policy to accommodate a recovery of our border businesses, I wonder how it would be in the next few years. We are happy about the news but prays it favours my people. If it does I will go back home,” Solomon added with a look of disappointment.
Experts had argued that the border closure came at a time the Nigerian government needed to encourage local food production with a simultaneous move towards curbing arm smuggling, which posed a serious security problem to the nation.
This development according to available reports showed a rise in the prices of many food items including rice which went as high as N40,000 per bag.
Many believe that the impact has been felt by the level of growth and stability recorded by the Nigerian agricultural sector especially the poultry and allied businesses.
The consensus is that favorable policies targeted at protection of local businesses and availability of raw materials especially for fish and poultry feeds would speed up the much touted boost in local production. Anything contrary would make the borders reopening nothing short of a political and diplomatic ceremony.