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Nigerians were suffocating due to economic crisis and insecurity along the Niger border

Three sisters, with children strapped to their backs, walk in the bright afternoon sun to cross the border between Katsina, a rural state in Nigeria’s conservative Muslim northwest, where they live, and Niger, where their father lives. Let’s move ahead. a wedding. However, this common travel has been officially banned since August 2023 and following sanctions imposed on Niamey by the Community of West African States (ECOWAS) following the seizure of power by a military junta in Niger. The road where trucks and cars parade continuously has been quiet for almost seven months. “Motorcyclists avoid passing through the border post and turn around, they charge too much, so we walk on foot,” says Saadatu Sani, 30, who was unable to spend Rs 800. A motorbike taxi charged Naira ($0.50) to the Nigerian village of Dan Issa, 18 kilometers from Jibia. Like many other Nigerians at the border, the three sisters continue to cross to the other side either through the Jibia border post, where officers turn a blind eye to travelers passing on foot, or through parallel paths, where motorists and even Some enterprise traders face the risk of having their goods confiscated by customs officials. – Double penalty – A few hundred meters away, the famous Jibiya Sunday market is softly buzzing. The crowd is much less than before the border closure. “Nigerians came here to sell beans, dates and bought our maize, our sorghum… Now we have to find other customers while everything we knew till now is cross – Was. Border trade,” laments Ibrahim Lawal Makiyayi, 53, who grows fruits and vegetables on the edge of the city, the capital of a district of about 300,000 inhabitants. In this state, considered the country’s grain basket, “we It is difficult to eat three meals a day”, complains Hamza Lawal, a truck driver whose activities have come to a halt since the border closure. Nigeria, which shares a 1,600 km border with its neighbour, was so far one of Niger’s main trading partners with exports worth $193 million. According to the United Nations in 2022 (electricity, tobacco, cement, etc.). Because the border closure is a double punishment for the local population, who have seen food prices explode under the combined effect of new movement restrictions and galloping Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in office since May, implemented economic reforms that followed inflation. Put the country in trouble. In January, inflation was near 30% and Nigerians were crushed by the cost of living. In Jibia, a 100-kilo bag of millet or maize yield has doubled in a year and currently sells for 60,000 naira ($40). The current crisis leads to pessimism, says Hassan Issa, regional coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), who fears that malnutrition, which is already rampant here, is reaching new heights this year, especially as Ramadan begins in March. is about to occur, whereby households are “encouraged to deplete their stockpiles quickly during this holiday period”. – Robbery, extortion and law enforcement – In addition to trade difficulties, residents of this rural area face endemic problems. Insecurity has worsened since the border closure. Over the years, armed groups known as “bandits” have continued to plunder the region, seizing lands and killing along their way. “We bought our cattle from Nigerians, we raised them and resold them. They have nothing to live on, now we have almost nothing because bandits are stealing our animals,” said Moses, a 67-year-old breeder. Abdullah laments. With the border closed and their job and income prospects gone, some young Nigerians are being tempted by banditry. “People have nothing to do, they waste time. They start using drugs. Poverty pushes you to the worst, stealing, killing, everything, just to survive”, laments Sade Rabiu, a 57-year-old traditional chief of Jibiya. But insecurity linked to bandits is not the residents’ only enemy. “The border closure has created opportunities not only for bandits but also for security agencies, who do not hesitate to seize goods and demand bribes,” said Philip Ikita, project director of the NGO Mercy Corps in Katsina. Have to say. On the 50 kilometer road leading from Katsina to Jibia, the eponymous state capital, checkpoints follow each other. Police, soldiers or self-proclaimed controllers shamelessly rob travelers.” Bandits must hide, operate in the shadows, while those charged with enforcing the law and protecting citizens actually do this business and run free. The worst burden on mobility,” claims Philip Ikita bitterly.fvl/fal

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