Border closure helped Nigeria tremendously, Buhari tells Queen of Netherlands

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President Muhammadu Buhari says the closure of the country’s borders for over one year helped Nigeria “tremendously”.

The federal government had, in August 2019, ordered a closure of the country’s land borders over illegal importation of drugs, arms and agricultural products into Nigeria from neighbouring West African countries.In December 2020, Buhari ordered the reopening of four land borders.Months after the reopening, the president had expressed concern that the closure of the borders failed to stop arms smuggling into Nigeria.

A motion, sponsored by 11 members of the house of representatives in June 2021, seeking to reopen all the borders was voted against at the green chamber.The president, who is currently in New York for the 76th United Nations general assembly, held a meeting with Maxima Zorreguieta, Queen of the Netherlands, on Wednesday.According to a statement by Femi Adesina, presidential spokesman, Buhari highlighted developmental efforts in the country, adding that his administration’s focus has been on infrastructure.

The president, who said there had been limitations owing to the fluctuations in oil prices, said if Zorreguieta visits Nigeria, she will see a major difference compared to 2017 when she last visited.“Without infrastructure, development would be limited, so we put emphasis on building roads, rail, and power. We have a comprehensive plan, and we are doing our best,” Buhari was quoted as saying.As Adesina noted, the president said the decision to close the country’s borders was to encourage farmers, “and eat what we grow”.“People went back to the land, and this helped us tremendously. We made fertilizers available, resuscitated dams, and it all paid off handsomely,” Buhari said.

Otherwise, with about 200 million people, we would have been in trouble when COVID-19 struck, and affected the economy.”He also noted that Nigeria is open to more investments, especially in agriculture.“We have the land, we have the people; capital input is what we need,” Buhari added.According to Adesina, the queen, in her remarks, commended the Buhari administration for “the huge effort” made to address the coronavirus pandemic.

The presidential spokesman also said the Queen of the Netherlands offered to look into supporting Nigeria, especially in agriculture, as long as the necessary infrastructure is in place.“You won’t be alone. We will be there along with other partners,” she was quoted as saying.“We need roads, railways, digital financial inclusion for farmers. Government needs to digitise all payments.”

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