By Lanre Laoshe
Aliko Dangote, a man I have high regards for, his testimony on Mo Ibahim Conference and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AcFTA, are enough reasons to keep these land borders permanently closed.
Dangote’s largest cement plant is at Ibese, Ògùn State, in fact it is the largest in Africa and produces more cement than the entire South Africa (we are not usually proud of our achievements) is located 28km from Benin republic. Long before the border closure, Benin banned the importation of Dangote cement from Nigeria. Yet the same Benin permits importation of cement from China into her territory.
When Dangote tries to take cement across West Africa, it is held for 2 weeks at the Benin-Togo border because he won’t give bribes – for those saying that corruption is the reason for non patronage of our ports.
Then AcFTA. SA insisted that it will only sign AcFTA if 80% component of the free trade goods are produced in the African member country. Dangote cement has 97% Nigerian local component, yet Benin republic banned its importation into its territory.
Now, I ask – what is percentage of local Benin republic content in Thailand rice, frozen chicken, vegetable oil, second hand cars, clothes and tires, Chinese cement and ammunition? 0% is a honest answer. So why should Benin allow them land in their ports and hide under free trade to push them to Nigeria?
One other thing – why is Benin, which has a cement factory in Onigbolo, importing cement from China but banning Nigerian produced cement? TO FACILITATE THE SMUGGLING OF CHINESE CEMENT INTO NIGERIA. If FG had not closed our borders, in a few months, Chinese cement would have been available in our markets!
As Aliko pointed out, all those countries urging Nigeria to sign AcFTA are not interested in Africa, but want to use the free trade agreement to get their exports across to the large African markets – Nigeria and South Africa.
Benin and co are already breaching AcFTA, even before Nigeria signed.
LET THE BORDER REMAIN CLOSED UNTIL Benin agrees absolutely to abide by ECOWAS protocols on transhipment and AcFTA. In fact, let us wait for 6 months after they do so.