CLOSURE OF BORDER IS NOT A SOLUTION
MASSIVE PUBLIC INVESTMENT IN AGRICULTURE AND BASIC COMMODITIES IS THE WAY-OUT
The closure of border on August 19, 2019 has created more crises for the working masses than they already have considering the rapid rising cost of consumables most of which are imported through the Seme border via Republic of Benin. The closure has provoked increment of prices of some commodities between 15% and 100%. For instance, rice, which is the most staple food in the country is increasingly unaffordable, a 50kg bag of imported rice has moved from about N14,000 to about N30,000 while the price of local rice has moved from about N11,000 to about N20,000. Prices of vegetable oil, frozen chicken etc., have all gone up. These prices may go further up in the coming weeks and months if the border remain closed. The closure has caused more hardship, suffering and hunger than it was before the closure of border.
The Buhari-led government has only succeeded in protecting the profit of local bourgeois against their fierce foreign competitors while the poor masses suffer the consequences of high prices. At least, one can understand the reason for increase in prices of imported rice since the border closure but the increase in price of local price shows the greed of an average exploiter (foreign or local) which is in line with profit-first logic of capitalism. The fact is that Nigeria is not self-sufficient in food production, something that has caused a shortfall which is being exploited by the local producers.
The Buhari’s government closure of border is part of a wider campaign to protect local business interest who have come under competitive pressure from foreign goods imported into the country. Contrary to the claim that the closure of border is meant to protect jobs, it is just the profit and privileges of a wealthy few that is being protected. All this is hinged on protectionism, an economic model that gives advantage to the local investors against their foreign counterpart, through instruments such as import and excise duties, tariff, import quotas, subsidies and bans. Despite global capitalist clamour for unrestricted trade in line with globalization, countries often use protectionism against foreign competitors to enable them gain advantage. In particular, the border closure defeats the essence of the recent signing of the ACFTA trade deal by the Nigerian government. An SPN led government will embark on temporary import and export regulations in line with planned socialist economy only when it is geared towards protecting better living conditions of the working masses and the poor.
Currently, more than 60% of cargoes meant for Nigeria are routed through Cotonou Port in Benin Republic due to high customs duties, terrible cargo clearing bureaucracy and processes and poor port facilities in Nigeria. In this area, the Nigeria’s government has failed woefully, moreso after the privatization of the Ports, something that has created more congestion in the port and outside the ports with its attendant chaos. Hence, to importers, Nigerian ports are not as profitable as the port in a small country like Benin something which forced them to bring in goods through neighbouring countries.
This crisis further shows the inherent contradiction in any pro-capitalist measure as what is meant to be a solution becomes the source of another round of crisis. This is usually because profit and greed of a rich few rather than the need of the poor masses dictates measures and policies of any pro-capitalist government. The government which claims to be interested in self-sufficiency in food production does not itself invest heavily in agriculture but rely on big businesses who are only interested in profit, something which explains hike in prices of local rice following the closure of border. This same government is creating more hardship through anti-poor capitalist policies such as increment in VAT from 5% to 7.5%, another hike of electricity tariff by about 45%, reintroduction of tollgate, hike in school fees etc.
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) demands that the government should reopen the border, massively invest in agriculture through public ownership of the agricultural sector and allied industries under workers and peasant democratic control and management aimed at self-sufficiency in food production and reducing prices, and also implement price control on basic commodities and services. We call on labour to support these demands. They are what the SPN would have done, if we are in power, together with nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy under democratic control of the working masses in order to raise adequate resources to invest in order to meet basic needs of the vast majority as well as protect economy against sabotage. We will also on the basis of socialist economic model plan production and services to meet the needs of the vast majority.
Acting National Chairperson