Fatai Shokunbi, president of the Badagry Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture (BACCIMA), has bemoaned the poor state of the area’s roads, the prevalence of touts, and the proliferation of unofficial police checkpoints as the biggest problems they encounter, all of which contribute to the escalating cost of goods and food in the country. He voiced displeasure over the fact that traders from surrounding countries like Benin and Togo are discouraged from conducting business in the country due to the difficulties involved, instead opting for other nearby countries where they won’t be exploited to pay exorbitant bribes.
He claims that businesses will not want to operate in Nigeria because of the country’s excessive number of checkpoints (more than 70 compared to two in Benin). Despite multiple complaints to the administration, nothing had been done to address the problem, he added. Speaking to the media at the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Benin Republic chamber of commerce, he said the agreement will have a profound impact on regional business involved given the high level of trade activities with Cotonou, Togo, Ghana and other nearby countries.
Closing of the border had a devastating effect on merchants.
The BACCIMA head emphasized the importance of cooperation between the two chambers in reviving the Seme border, which he described as “practically inactive,” and in keeping the two parties informed of their governments’ business-related initiatives. Shokunbi complained that the closing of the border had a devastating effect on many merchants and enterprises, and had even gone so far as to cause the deaths of some members whose goods had been unjustly seized at the border. The prolonged closure of the border, where the government does generate billions, has left Shokunbi baffled.
As a result of the prolonged border closure, the government and businesses both suffered financial losses, while some enterprises even suffered business closures. Business expansion in both nations will benefit from this new collaboration, he said, and cross-border trade relations, which have worsened since the shutdown, would see an improvement. In response to claims that business operations have commenced at the border, he argued that such announcements were really empty rhetoric, not close to truth.
Government urged to fully open the border for food trade.
While the government maintains the border is fully open, he states that the only difference he has seen is that wagons are now permitted to enter the country. He thus called on the government to fully open the border so that actual food trade may take place. According to Shokunbi, ties between the two countries (Nigeria and the Benin Republic) normally used to be so cordial that people simply brushed aside the boundary between them.
At the time, people from both nations were free to travel and marry across national boundaries, start businesses and buy homes in either nation, and learn to communicate fluently in both languages and cultures. But now, with the border closed, everything has changed, he remarked. He mentioned that the upcoming economic summit would include representatives from a multitude of businesses, such as the Alaba International Market and the Trailer Park Association, in order to determine new opportunities for commerce across the area.
Accommodating regulations for businesses are called for.
Shokunbi yet again urged the president to transform Badagry into a business hub similar to Agbara by fixing the area’s poor road network and opening the border completely. He advocates for regulations that are more accommodating to businesses and for further industrialization in the region. The BACCIMA head explained that this is an obligation that they are unable to fulfill independently and have been striving to bring it to the forefront of the government’s notice.
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