By Mustapha Sumaila
Prof. Mustapha Muktar of Economics Department, Bayero University, Kano says the reopening of borders by the Federal Government is timely while maintaining the ban on rice importation.
Muktar said this while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in a telephone interview on Thursday in Abuja.
NAN reports that President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday directed the reopening of four border areas in the country.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, announced this at the end of the Federal Executive Council meeting.
She listed the border areas as Seme, South-West, Ilela, North-West, Maigatari, North-West and Mfun in South-South.
The don said he was excited that the border reopening was announced with some regulations and restrictions of import of some items.
He said that allowing importation of products that are produced locally would be counterproductive and unhelpful to the economy.
“I have been urging the government to maintain the ban on agricultural commodities and other basic necessary products that we have advantage of producing within the country.
“For the ban on importation of rice, I still support the government even if we cannot produce the sufficient quantity for our consumption, we can always improve and expand.
“If we don’t ban rice production, our farmers cannot improve as well as the economy.
“The government need to sustain this effort so that our local production can thrive and also to protect the local industries that are engaged in rice chain production.
“And the only way to do that is to ban the importation of rice because the imported ones are relatively cheap in price and allowing such will kill the local rice production,” he explained.
He however urged government to give incentives for export in order to boost trading patterns and balance of payment in order to stabilise the exchange rate.
Muktar also enjoined the Federal Government to strengthen security at various borders to prevent smuggling of firearms into the country in an effort to protect lives and properties.
He emphasised the need for government to ensure strict compliance of its protocols and policies on the border reopening.