Trade between Nigeria and Niger has been halted as a result of sanctions imposed due to the July coup in Niger. In neighboring Nigeria, officials say they could lose more than $200 million as a result of declining exports. VOA correspondent Alhasan Bala was in the Nigerian border town of Magama Jibia and reports that this is causing economic hardship for many communities on the border.
For two weeks, Bilya Isa has been one of many drivers who have been forced to park their cargo trucks in Nigeria’s Magama Jibia, near the border with Niger.
The borders were closed due to sanctions imposed on Niger by the international community and the regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS.
The sanctions followed the July coup in Niger. Nigerian officials say the shutdown could result in losses of $226 million.
“I have been at this border for almost 15 days. The goods I am transporting will be damaged if the shutdown continues into the next month. It will be a big loss for us and the owner. I have no money with me now; my friends bring me food,” says truck driver Bliya Isa.
Aspects of ordinary life in this community have been hampered by the insecurity in Niger and the ensuing sanctions.
Abdulqadir Sani is the owner of the shop that sells food. He says some people no longer open their shops due to low demand.
“Sales are at the lowest level. Those who enter the store, come to borrow money to eat. Some shops are not open, since the border was closed”, says Mr. Sani.
Another shop owner, Muhammad Adamu, says the sanctions have also caused the prices of goods to go up a lot.
“The cost of living has increased. The price of goods has tripled. For example, the price of rice has risen to about $4 from over $1 previously. It seems that we, the border communities of Nigeria are more affected by the sanctions than the people in Niger,” says Mr. Adamu.
Inflation in Nigeria has been on the rise for years and currently stands at around 23 percent. This is pushing some goods beyond the reach of the poor, according to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics.
“Government is taking all measures to ease the lives of the people of Katsina state of Nigeria, especially those along the border. The government has already bought grains that are being distributed for free, says Malam Bala Salisu, Information Commissioner for Katsina state, bordering Niger.
Bashir Adeniyi, the Acting Director General of the Nigeria Customs Service insists that closing the border is worth it despite the financial risk as security concerns are huge.
“Sometimes you have to look at the other side of the situation. For economic relations to flourish, you must also adapt them to an atmosphere of peace and security. When that is lacking, we have to strike a balance between the two,” says Mr. Adeniyi.
With the deployment of military force on standby by ECOWAS, the residents of this border community are not only worried about their living conditions but also their security.