Developing Robust and Coherent Regional Trade Policy Could Quell the Chaos Surrounding Land Border Closures in Nigeria

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Regional Economic Integration, African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), Rules-Based Trade Regime, International Economic Institutions, African Union, Lagos Plan of Action, African Economic Community, Developing Countries, Intellectual Property Rights, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, African Trade Policy Centre, Multilateralism, Regionalism, International Trade Agreements


Despite the pivotal roles played in the establishment and reform on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) among other continental initiatives in Africa, significant questions remain whether Nigeria is truly committed to a meaningful regional economic integration regime in the implementation phase. The recent inquest into Nigeria’s regional trade policy has exacerbated because of two major occurrences.

First, Nigeria’s delay in signing the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) led to critical reactions on the readiness of one of Africa’s largest economies to embrace a continental rules-based trade regime. Others, including me, however argued that Nigeria’s delay for the purpose of national consultation was a step in the right direction. Second, the critical reactions have been invigorated by Nigeria’s incessant resort to land border closures. Unilateral land border closures initiated by Nigeria which targets imports from Benin is not new. The unilateral closure of land borders by Nigeria not only goes against the formal commitments to free trade and movement of persons among the ECOWAS Member States but also the foundation of regional economic integration. The latest of the incessant border closures by Nigeria began in August 2019. The Nigerian government closed land borders to trade in goods on the grounds that the measure would end the smuggling of specific items such as rice and frozen chicken among others to Nigeria from Benin.