·  Local Poultry Farmers sing Hosanna; Smugglers groan
· Less Chicken on family tables for celebrations

By Osita Okechukwu Eze

Every Christmas and New Year seasons, menu tables of many families are often awash with different parts of chicken as both old and young members of families are treated to special meals to mark the memorable occasion. Along with the eating of chicken, families also adorn their dining tables with different types of rice, both local and imported depending on the financial stand of each family.

However, this year, for many Nigerian homes, family dining tables might be without chicken to grace the rice plates of members of the families and their visitors. Thus, the Christmas and New Year festive moods and parties will be celebrated by many families with iced fish or other available alternatives.  The reason for this sudden change on menu tables of many families is the closure of the land border by the Federal Government, since October, this year.

Investigation conducted by GISTAGRICA team revealed that the border closure by the Federal Government has had different dimensions of effects on the socio-economic life of the people, the country and her nieghbouring countries.

A few years ago, even this time last year, the country’s border towns are awash with truckloads of frozen chickens being illegally brought into the country. Most the chicken and several bags of rice are imported into neighbouring countries of Togo, Niger, Cameroun and later transported into Nigeria through different illegal routes. This is because, the border posts between Nigeria and her neighours are fully manned for the purpose of collecting revenue at the borders, hence the recourse of Nigerian businessmen and women and their counterparts in the neighbouring countries choose short cuts to deprive the country of her well deserved revenue.

In the past years, the influx of chicken and rice through smuggle routes make the commodities available for many Nigerian homes to celebrate their festive moods. This influx however often affects the business of local poultry farmers as their products are not in great demand as the ones brought into the country through illegal routes.

The closure of the Nigerian borders by the Government has both positive and negative impacts. For the Nigeria Government, the Customs have been able to rake in more revenue as most businessmen and women now channel their chicken and rice and other products into the country, through the legal routes and pay the required duties. This means more revenue income for the Government.

Also, for the local chicken and rice farmers, the border closure is a blessing as it has helped to enhance their business in production and revenue generation. According to the Poultry Association of Nigeria and Rice Farmers Association, the closure of the borders by the Federal Government has reduced the smuggling of chicken and rice  into the country; boost the economy of the associations and provide job opportunities for many jobless Nigerians, especially the youths. According to Akpa Onallo, Director General of Poultry Association of Nigeria, the volume of chicken being smuggled into the country could be about one million tonnes and this is rubbing the country of about 100,000 jobs.

Both the Christian Poultry Farmers and their Muslim counterparts are praising the government for the decision on the border closure; as this has led to high demand for the products.

However, some local traders, especially those on the border towns are being negatively affected by the border closure. This is because, most them have closed shops and the steady flow of traffic in the areas drastically reduced. A resident of Badagry a border town of with Benin Republic, Raji Abidemi has this to say: “We are really suffering” stressing that business has really slowed down in all ramifications.

Without doubt, the border closure has negative effect on informal traders, as well as business in most of the border countries; who depend largely on the Nigerian market for sales of their imported rice and chicken and other products.

In Ekwulobia market, Aguata LGA of Anambra State for instance, before the border closure, several ‘Cold Rooms’ were set up  to facilitate business during the festive periods; through illegally “imported” chicken  from neighbouring countries. But this purpose is presently defeated.

In 2014, a certain poultry farmer based in Ekwulobia, Bennedeth Udemezue, had borrowed money from her Isusu group to start a poultry farm which she expected to harvest during December period and cash into the high demand for chicken meat. But there was a high influx of frozen chicken from Cotonou, Benin Republic, and elsewhere and they sold cheaper. This devasted her business plan.

Alas, out of the 30 chicks Mrs. Udemezue bought to rear, only 14 survived to maturity and when she brought them to the market, she had a hard time selling them and ended up slaughtering 4 of them for home consumption, while the remaining 10 were sold at a price below the intended price. It took the intervention of her sons who paid off her debt to prevent her from having an embarrassing experience with her Isusu group.

However, in November this year when GISTAGRICA reporter met Mrs Udemezue again; her poultry farm has been tottering until the border closure has become lucrative. An excited Mrs  Udemezue shared how she had been getting an increased demand for chickens supply, more than she used to.  “You won’t believe it but even those owners of frozen chicken outfits have started patronizing me as they no longer get chicken from outside the country,” she declared. The poultry farmer then shared her plans to expand her business, taking advantage of the closure order. .

‘Force is the only language Nigerians understand,’ a health activist, Dr Rachel Ibinabo stated. Speaking during a lecture in Calabar on the dangers patronizing genetically modified frozen chicken because it is cheaper, she said, “Have you ever wondered why imported frozen chicken costs less than our own locally bred even with the high cost of importation?  “It is because these imported ones are pumped with chemicals and genetically modified to grow in days. However, researches have disclosed that such frozen chickens contain less nutrients and more carcinogenic substances.”

However, since the enforced border closure, there has been increased pressure on local farmers to triple if not quadruple their production in order to meet increased demand. Though Nigerian local farmers now smile to the banks, consumers are not finding it funny as many of them complain that they are being exploited by the farmers; while the celebration of this year’s Christmas and new year in many homes may be without the eating of chicken, especially the frozen ones “illegally imported from neighbouring countries.

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