Nigeria on Wednesday said that it partially closed its border with Benin in a bid to curb massive smuggling activities, especially of rice, occurring in that area.
Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari spoke to his Benin counterpart Patrice Talon about the measure on the sidelines of the seventh Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD) summit in Japan.
“Our people in the rural areas are going back to their farms and have saved huge sums of money which would otherwise have been expanded on importing rice using our scarce foreign reserves. We cannot allow smuggling of the product at such alarming proportions to continue,” Buhari said according to a statement sent out by his spokesman.
Though no date of when the border was partially closed was given, Buhari indicated that it was restricted to allow security personnel to contain the situation and he would consider fully re-opening the border in the future.
Buhari added that Nigeria is due to hold a meeting with Benin and Niger to discuss ways to tame cross-border smuggling.
Nigeria imports nearly $4 billion of rice and wheat annually, according to the government due to an underdeveloped manufacturing industry.
Earlier this month, Buhari pledged to strengthen his administration’s focus on agriculture announcing policies that will support the cultivation and consumption of locally produced food items.
He also instructed the central bank to stop availing foreign exchange for food imports in an attempt to improve Nigeria’s agriculture sector.
Additionally, Buhari encouraged more young Nigerians to take up agriculture seriously noting that the country had the potential to feed its entire population.