AN OPEN LETTER TO HAMEED ALI, COMPTROLLER GENERAL, NIGERIA CUSTOMS SERVICE.
Permit me to reference your recent statement that Nigeria should graciously embrace the border closure policy of this administration, because China closed its borders for 40yrs and became great.
I feel obliged to set the record straight before proceeding.
The truth of the matter is that the Chinese closed their borders to the outside world in the 15th century AD as a reaction to the increase in foreign merchants, settlers, and religions entering the region at the time. The Ming Dynasty who ruled China at the time believed that China did not need to trade with the outside world to improve as it already had all of the resources and materials it would ever need.
Furthermore, at the time a merchant was seen as a lowly profession in China as they did not produce anything but merely resold the goods of other people. Finally, the Chinese government saw these foreign cultures as a threat to Chinese traditions and heritage and so closed their borders in order to keep Chinese culture pure and unaffected.
To start with, goods are brought into Nigeria daily through the airports, seaports and land borders. While the land borders are currently shut, the airports and seaports remain open to goods importation, putting to question the efficacy of the policy.
The purpose of the border closure is to encourage Nigerians to grow local content. Unfortunately, there’s no serious deliberate policy on ground to help local production.
There’s no regular electricity supply to enhance local production. Our roads are in deplorable states so much so that those who even manage to produce find it difficult to transport their goods out of their locality. Insecurity has become a multi-billion naira enterprise, so much so that even ordinary farmers and artisans are now kidnapped for ransome, causing many of them to abandon their farms. Our commercial banks still give out loans with interest rates that the average entrepreneur is not likely to break even with.
I can go on and on.
Mr President should have started by putting these measures in place, having been in office for over four years now, then proceed to give a window period of a couple of months for Nigerians to get set. Even then, the border closure would not be blanket. It would be against goods that are produced locally in Nigeria. And it won’t be just for a few months, but permanently.
Our mantra should be, “whatever we produce locally, we shall not import”!
Mr President should then lead by example by patronising made in Nigeria products. His official car, that of all his Ministers and those used by all Federal parastatals and agencies should be made in Nigeria. Innoson motors in Anambra state, which is an indigenous automobile outfit should be patronised fully by the Federal government of Nigeria to this end.
Rather than travel to Europe to seek medicare, Mr President should make deliberate efforts to build our health sector to world class standard and receive care here in Nigeria.
In China that you mentioned, the penalty for looting public funds is death sentence, which is sometimes commuted to life imprisonment after a very brief legal process.
Here in Nigeria, corruption cases are not looked into by our anti-graft agencies so long the offender is in the good books of the ruling party. And where such cases are brought up, it drags on frustratingly for ages!
During the build up to the recently concluded 2019 presidential election, the National Chairman of the ruling party, Mr Adams Oshiomole stated that any politician who joins his party and works for its success at the polls will have his sins forgiven!
Does that sound like the Chinese model you alluded to that made China great?
So, the greatness that China has attained today is not just consequent upon border closure, but sustained deliberate local content developmental policy to build industries, invest heavily in science and technology with their leaders leading by example by patronising their local contents and dealing with corruption ruthlessly and sincerely, not minding whose ox is gored!
As one who has the listening ears of Mr President, you will do well to discuss these points with him, lest we return to status quo as soon as the borders are opened again!
May we live to see the Nigeria we can all be proud of.
I wish you well in your endeavours.
Dr Thomas-Wilson Ikubese
Convener, YesWeFit Movement
7th November, 2019