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Nigerian Border Closure, Fuel Subsidy Freeze Whacking Cameroonians 

By Divine Ntaryike Jr

(Cameroonpostline.com) — Cameroonian traders, customs officials and cross border commuters in the country’s northern parts say they are already feeling aching pinches following Nigeria’s decision to shut down its border, as well as freeze fuel price subsidies.

Inhabitants of several settlements straddling the border between both countries report skyrocketing prices of petroleum products and other basic commodities usually procured from nearby Nigerian markets. Cameroon’s northern regions which are considerably far-flung from the commercial nub and seaport Douala depend heavily on Nigerian markets for relatively cheap supplies.

On December 31, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a border shutdown with Cameroon, Chad and Niger.  He also imposed a state of emergency in several northern states close to the border with Cameroon.  The temporal border closure, according to Abuja, was intended to stiffen controls on presumed cross border movements by members of the Islamic terror group, the Boko Haram. Increasingly, there are indications that Boko Haram militants have been using Cameroon as a refuge following stepped up clampdowns on them by the Nigerian government.

Traders report that Nigerian security forces have been massively deployed along the border and are diligently implementing the border closure.  A popular frontier market at Banki has been closed, while traders heading to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital have been turned back since Monday, January 2.  Some say they have even had their belongings seized.

“Nigerian soldiers have been stationed all along the border. They are suspecting everyone especially people with long beards.  They stop and search everyone and then ask you to go back as you came.  They are afraid that Boko Haram militants may disguise as traders to cross the border.  Some traders who attempted to sneak into Nigeria through the bushes have been arrested,” a trader, Baba Alhadji recounted Thursday.

Fuel hawkers are also complaining.  Many say their source of livelihood has grounded to a standstill.  “We had been managing to smuggle in some fuel from Nigeria despite the border closure.  But now that the Nigerian government has decided to stop subsidizing it, our partners across the border say they cannot ensure our supplies,” Danjuma Bouba, a fuel trafficker told Cameroon Postline Friday.  He says fuel price hikes in the region are inevitable and could culminate in protests if the government fails to react fast by ensuring steady supplies.

Elsewhere, customs officials in the affected areas are warning the country could incur huge revenue losses this year. Africacare, an online publication quotes an unnamed senior Cameroonian customs officer stating that: “Customs revenue on imported goods from Nigeria has dried up as there is no longer any trans-border trade.”

Meantime, administrative authorities in the affected areas say they are stepping up vigilance as the coming days will be challenging.  An ultimatum issued by the Boko Haram for all Christians and southerners to leave northern Nigeria has expired and it is feared Cameroon’s northwestern regions will witness an influx of Nigerians.

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