Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the reopening of the nation’s land borders, ending a 16-month shutdown that raised food prices and curbed regional trade.
Buhari ordered the closing of frontiers in August 2019 to halt the smuggling of rice, arms and drugs into Africa’s largest economy. The action brought once-thriving border towns to a near-standstill, with supply constraints contributing to the highest inflation rate in almost three years.
Lifting the restrictions will help smooth the implementation of the African Continental Free-Trade Area, a continent-wide agreement due to come into effect on Jan. 1. After some initial reluctance the government said in November it plans to commit to the accord.
Four of Nigeria’s main land borders will reopen immediately, with others to follow by Dec. 31, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed told reporters Wednesday. A ban on imports of rice, poultry and other products will remain in place and be enforced by border-patrol officers, she said.
“Now that the message has sunk in with our neighbors, we’re looking into reopening the borders as soon as possible,” Buhari said on Twitter shortly before Ahmed’s announcement.
— Presidency Nigeria (@NGRPresident) December 16, 2020