By Andy Chukwu
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has backed Nigeria’s closure of its borders with some neighbouring countries over issues bordering on illegal trade.
Mr Abebe Selassie, the Director of the African Department at the IMF, gave the position at a media briefing on the sidelines of the World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings in Washington DC.
He was responding to a question on whether the closure negates the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA.
Selassie said although free trade was critical to the economic growth of the continent, it must be legal and in line with agreements.
“On the border closure in Nigeria which has been impacting Benin and Niger, our understanding is that the action reflects concerns about smuggling that has been taking place.
“It is about illegal trade, which is not what you want to facilitate,’’ Selassie said.
He said the IMF was hoping for a speedy resolution of the issues as the action was already taking a toll on the economies of the country’s neighbours.
“We are very hopeful that discussions will resolve the challenges that this illegal trade is posing.
“If the border closure is to be sustained for a long time, it will definitely have an impact on Benin and Niger which, of course, rely quite extensively on the big brother next door,’’ he said.
On Wednesday, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, said the borders were closed to curb illegal trading activities by Nigeria’s neighbours.