Border closure: LCCI, Peterside condemn exemption for Dangote, others

The Founder, Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Mr Atedo Peterside and Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry have condemned the selective approach of the government to economic policies.

They spoke in reaction to the exemption of Dangote Cement, BUA and a gas supply firm from land border trade restriction policy of the government.

The Nigeria Customs Service on Tuesday also confirmed that the three companies were granted approval to export their products via land borders by the government.

Peterside queried the decision of the government to allow only selected companies to move goods across the border, in a Tweet on Tuesday.

He said all legitimate exporters should be allowed access to the border for export purposes.

The tweet read, “When will the FG consider small honest businesses that are not so well-connected?

“I have since learnt that BUA Group was also allowed to export goods through Nigeria’s “closed” land borders. FG should please accept that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.”

Peterside had earlier tweeted, “Allowing legitimate exporters and importers to move their goods across the border should be a no-brainer.

“Why refuse everybody else and allow only one company (Dangote)?

“This is why some of us argue that the Nigerian economy is rigged in favour of a handful of well-connected persons.”

The Director-General, LCCI, Dr Muda Yusuf, said the credibility of policymakers and the government was in doubt due to the selective approach to policymaking and execution.

According to him, a fair policy regime demands that there should be a level-playing field in the policy and regulatory environment.

He said the absence of a level-playing field for economic players was detrimental to investors’ confidence and inimical to the economic recovery aspirations of the government.

“It also negates the principles and spirit of competition policy and competition law,” he added.

Nigeria had closed all its land borders, which shares boundaries with Benin, Niger and Cameroon in August last year, to the movement of goods in order to tackle smuggling.

Nigerian manufacturers had been clamouring for the reopening of the land border as they were losing a lot of revenue to the restriction.

The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria at different fora advocated for a review of the border closure as it was not sustainable.

The acting Director-General, Ambrose Oruche, had advised the government to put measures in place to guard against ill practices at the borders.

 “All goods, for now, are banned from being exported or imported through our land borders and that is to ensure we have total control over what comes in,” Hameed Ali, the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Services, told journalists.

The spokesperson for the Nigeria Customs Service, Joseph Attah, who spoke with OSBC said three companies – Dangote Cement, BUA and a gas supply company – were granted approval by the presidency to export to neighbouring countries through land borders.

Attah said the aforementioned firms were exempted due to the need for their products in other West African countries.

He, however, said he could not recall the name of the gas supply firm.

According to him, the approval was granted based on special requests from the governments of the neighbouring countries.

He said, “This by the way is not a new thing because the border was partially closed in August 2019 and since then, it has remained closed.

“Some three months ago, upon special requests from the governments of these neighbouring countries, the government agreed with their requests and approved that these companies should supply those things. It is a presidential approval.”

Also, Dangote in the statement said its cement company and other companies in July 2020, got partial special dispensation to export their products with certain sequence of crossing at Ilela land border in Sokoto State and Ohumbe land border in Ogun State.

The statement is entitled ‘Border Closure Policy: Govt confirms granting Dangote, BUA, others special dispensation on export’.

The company explained that the Chief Executive Officer, Dangote Cement, Michel Puchercos, in his presentation on investors’ call explained that the company was continuously focused on exporting cement to West and Central Africa by sea through its export terminals.

He added that six vessels of clinker were exported in the third quarter of 2020 via the Apapa export terminal, while plans were on track to inaugurate the Port Harcourt export terminal before the end of this year.

For the quarter, Dangote stated that it exported only 69 kilotonnes of cement via the land borders, compared to previous volumes of 180 kilotonnes before the border closures.

Also, the BUA Group in a statement made available to our correspondent by Sunday Ogieva acknowledged that the company received a limited approval to export through the land borders.

The statement said, “BUA Cement does not have any blanket approval to export and the Nigerian borders remain closed

“BUA Cement was granted a limited approval to export some cement to Niger Republic (which is 100kms from our plant).”

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