Nigerian communities along the Nigeria-Niger border are facing growing uncertainty and anxiety as a result of the profound impact of the Niger coup crisis. With the border closed and vital services knocked out, misery coupled with frustration has become the lot of the residents.
The situation remains dire as the suffering triggered by the closure of the borders stretches into weeks and months with no end in sight. Food, water, and electricity supplies have since dried up, while free movement of goods and services has also been stalled between the dwellers of the borderline areas since the coup rattled the country some weeks ago.
In an interview with Arewa Voice, the Acting Village Head of Magama Community in Jibia Local Government Area of Katsina State, Sani Abubakar, listed the multi-faceted nature of the crisis and its repercussions on border communities.
In the midst of the escalating political turmoil, Abubakar shared how the crisis had severely affected life in the community, particularly in terms of the scarcity and exorbitant prices of essential goods imported from across the border.
Food items like rice and spaghetti, which were once affordable, have since witnessed substantial price hikes, putting a strain on household budgets. Abubakar said that a bag of rice that used to cost around N31,000 now goes for N45,000.
He pointed out that, apart from the high cost, securing such products has become a daunting task due to their scarcity and restricted access.
Despite these difficulties, the borderline communities have so far avoided widespread unrest as cases of violence and displacement are unheard of.
For the time being, their predicaments remain unabated, with economic strain rather than overt conflict. The economic toll extends beyond inflated prices, however.
Strained cross-border relations
The economic toll extends beyond inflated prices. Abubakar explains how the once-vibrant trade relationship between the border communities has suffered due to mounting frustrations.
The Magama Market in Jibia, known for its bustling activity, remains eerily quiet, reflecting strained cross-border relations.
He noted that Nigerien traders, who were once a common sight in the market, have dwindled due to the complexities of the border situation. Similarly, Nigerians crossing the border to conduct transactions face bullying and hefty fines, particularly those using motorcycles.
This has led some to resort to illegal routes, exacerbating the cost of living and creating pressing hunger crisis.
Abubakar’s concerns are echoed by other residents who highlighted the bond between the border communities of Nigeria and Niger before the coup.
The Magajin Zandam, Ambassador Gidado Suleiman Farfaru, drawing attention to the intertwined social fabric that binds these border communities, notes that the crisis has significantly distorted the bilateral relationship between Nigeria and Niger, adding: “The people living along the borders are just like fathers and mothers to each other.