BORDER CLOSURE: COW, SHEEP SHORTAGE LOOMS
Importation of cattle, camel, sheep, dates (Dabino) and other food items from Niger Republic has been grounded following the closure of borders by Nigerian authorities as part of efforts to restore civil authority to the neighbouring country, Daily Trust reports.
Traders, transporters and middlemen said they are losing their means of livelihood and called for a re-think by all contending parties. And within Nigeria, retailers and consumers of the items said they are becoming scarce amid rising prices.
President Mohamed Bazoum was toppled in a palace coup by the Nigerien military led by Abdourahamane Tchiani on July 26 and few days after, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) vowed to invade Niger if the junta failed to restore democratic order.
The regional bloc led by President Bola Tinubu also slammed various sanctions including border closure, cutting of electricity supply, among others. The African Union (AU) also followed suit with other sanctions.
But findings revealed that while millions of Nigeriens are passing through difficulties following the blockade, Nigerians have also started feeling the brunt of the sanctions, especially in the area of supply of proteins.
According to Statista, live cattle in Nigeria amounted to around 21.16 million heads as of 2021.
But a large chunk of the cattle and sheep being consumed in all parts of Nigeria comes from Niger, according to findings and interviews with those doing the business.
At least six states in Nigeria share a border with Niger. These include Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Jigawa, Yobe and Borno.
Sequel to the continued border closure, businesses connecting the two countries through the land borders are suffering, Daily Trust gathered.
Our correspondents in the border communities report that supplies to other states across North and South have reduced.
In Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) and butchers at the abattoir said flow of cows and other livestock into the state has reduced to less than fifty per cent.
MACBAN chairman, Alhaji Muhammad Karube, said the recent border closure aggravated their travails because since the beginning of Boko Haram insurgency, the herders could only use land border access into Nigeria to avoid incessant killings of their members by the insurgents.
“Now that the border has been closed, and our members could not use the bush path to bring in the cows, supply has gone down.”
When our correspondent visited the Maiduguri Abattoir at Gamboru Market, meat sellers said there was a massive reduction in the number of cows being slaughtered. One of them, Malam Ali Buba, said the number of cows that came into the abattoir kept reducing by the day.
“Before the Boko Haram insurgency, we used to slaughter 200 cows, but were reduced to a bit above 100 due to the activities of the insurgents.
“And now that the ECOWAS sanctioned Niger and closed its borders, we hardly slaughter 50 cows in a day because the supply stopped.
“A cow that we used to buy for N250, 000 is now between N300, 000 and N350, 000; that is why a kilo of meat is sold for N3,000 as against the N2, 500 being sold before,” he said.
Chairman of Dates Sellers in Maiduguri, Alhaji Hussaini Mai Dabino lamented how the closure of Niger borders with Nigeria pushed thousands of his members out of business.
He recounted that he had four trucks loaded with dates due for arrival last month but he could not take delivery as a result of the coup that obstructed everything.
Date is a popular delicacy in the North as people eat it as fruit and also for naming and marriage ceremonies. Its demand goes higher during Ramadan as Muslims eat it during Iftar for spiritual upliftment.
“I don’t know what would happen to these goods. Imagine having trucks of goods worth hundreds of millions of naira in Niger in this present situation,” Mai Dabino said.
“It is sad, we are in between the two devils; more thousands of my members are jobless now. We don’t get supply and they don’t have goods to sell.
“Our leaders should put themselves in our shoes, we are losing millions every day. We don’t know when they will reopen borders and it is tough taking care of our families.”
Another marketer, Salisu Yusuf, said, “We are in a serious problem. A bag of dabino, which was being sold at between N65, 000 and N70, 000 is now N115, 000 per bag. A mudu is now N4,500 instead of N2,500. It is very scarce in the market. I have less than a bag now.”
In Maigatari Local Government Area, the livestock market is the largest in Jigawa State, which is also located just by the border station that has been sealed off by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the Department of Security Services (DSS), among others.
Speaking to Daily Trust, the representative of the District Head of Maigatari, Yakubu Aminu said while the security have intensified efforts in ensuring non movement across the border, others still find their way in because there is high demand for livestock.
“You know apart from the official border, there are enough bush paths for illegal movement without the security operatives seeing them coming in with the animals.
“But all these are done with foot without using any vehicle. In that regard, when you are used to bringing in truck loads of anything before you will have to bring maybe a hundred now.
“It is affecting businesses of course but we are still praying. Honestly, because of their steadfastness, even our people are complaining but they have to do their job.”
Bashir Adamu, a business man at the border market said most of the commodities that are being supplied from Niger dropped by 60-75 per cent.
Likewise in the Shuwarin dates market, most of the marketers have reportedly left the business as a result of the shortage of supply.
Most of the stalls of the dates cited by the Daily Trust have been closed.
Najib Suleiman said the business was grounded because the prices of dates have skyrocketed since the closure of the border.
He said about 20 of his colleagues have left the business.
Ado Yusuf Shuwarin said the reason why some of them are still in the market is because of their old stocks.
“If our dates finished, we would leave the market because the dates are no longer being supplied to us,” he said.
Kano State is a destination and haven for businessmen and women who trade between Niger Republic and Nigeria.
The Public Relations Officer of Yan Awaki Livestock market said that recently, the trade in animals between the two countries has drastically declined, which is affecting business a lot.
Yan Awaki, which is located at Unguwa Uku area of Tarauni Local Government Area, is one of the largest and most active livestock markets in the state that also serves as the animals’ dispatch point to other states, especially southern and eastern parts of the country.
He said, “Things are not moving but as you know, with the power of prayers, we are managing. For us here, as a market that used to witness truckloads of animals in thousands every day, we are now receiving them in hundreds instead and it is affecting protein supply to all parts of the country,” he said.
“The animals you are seeing now are being brought through illegal ways, through the bush due to the nature of the borders.”
Our correspondent reports that Kantin Kwari in particular is one place that benefits more from the Niger-Nigeria relationship but businessmen there are now lamenting.
Abdulmalik Hamza sells textile materials, bed sheets and mosquito nets there.
“At the beginning when the coup d’état took place, everything stopped but thanks be to God, we have found drivers who take our goods through,” he said.
Ismail Musa said it is a loss-loss situation for all. “The prices of all the things we used to bring from Niger like livestock and spaghetti have increased and from here, costs of textile being taken to Niger have jumped up. The blockade is not doing anyone any good.”
Over 500 trucks stranded in Katsina border
A resident of Dankama, one of the major markets close to the Niger border in Katsina State, said the animal population in the market was down by at least 70 per cent, while the prices have doubled in most cases.
“In the past, you could see a single trader bringing in about 50 animals, but some of them have completely stopped while those who could not remain at home, they strive to bring like 10.
“Let me start with the small ruminant animals- goats and sheep. For instance, a small goat we used to purchase at the rate of N15, 000 before this impasse is now sold between N25, 000 and NN30,000, which means the price has almost doubled.”
Similarly, at Mai’ adua, another major market, a businessman described the situation as pathetic, saying both sides of the border have been badly affected by the closure.
“A lot of people are out of business while others have chosen to go the illegal way to import the commodities from Niger, following very difficult processes, which will definitely reflect in the prices of the goods.
He said the scarcity of the animals also affected their prices, adding that livestock trading is the backbone of the Mai’adua market because other activities depend on it.
At the Jibia border in Katsina State, it was gathered that there were at least 500 trucks loaded with goods stuck on the Niger side of the border, a situation that caused the scarcity of the commodities in the Nigerian markets.
A driver of one of the trucks, Yusuf Musa, said most of the goods in the trucks, which include tiger nut, dates and potash could be spoilt by the rain, saying some of them have spent weeks at the border.
A trader at the Jibia market said due to the scarcity of the goods, the prices have increased by 50 to 75 per cent, and expressed fear that if the impasse prolonged, the items will completely cease to be available in the markets.
Same in Sokoto
Marketers and buyers at the Illela international market have been lamenting over low patronage and shortage of commodities due to border closure.
One of the traders, Yahya Amarawa said they were only attending the market as a symbolic gesture but not for trading to make profit.
“Even those that usually come in on donkeys and motorcycles through the bush paths have stopped,” he said. It was the same lamentation at the animal section of the market as soaring prices due to scarcity scares people away from the market.
Musa Gwabna (donkey seller), noted that the business has not been flourishing for long because of the naira depreciation.
“The situation is further compounded by the recent border closure. Before, we were buying a donkey in Niger Republic at the cost of 40,000 CFA, which was roughly N30, 000 but 40,000 CFA is equivalent to N50, 000 now.
“We used to get donkeys from Niger, Mali and Algeria until they stopped coming in,” he said.