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Border Closure: IMF Backs Nigeria, Says Free Trade Should be Legal

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Abebe Selassie of IMF
IMF's Abebe Selassie

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has backed Nigeria’s closure of its borders with some neighbouring countries over issues connected with illegal trade.

Director, IMF African Department, Abebe Selassie, gave the position on Saturday, October 19, 2019, at a media briefing on the sidelines of the World Bank/IMF Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Responding to whether the closure negates the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), Selassie posited that 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,” he said.

The IMF official added that the organization 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.

You may recall that the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, on Wednesday, October 16, 2019, disclosed that the borders were closed to curb illegal trading activities by Nigeria’s neighbours.

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