Southern Niger reels after Nigeria closes borders

Dan Issa, Niger, Oct 23 (AFP/APP): “Nothing crosses into Nigeria and nothing comes out. It’s hermetically sealed,” said Amadou Idi, sitting in a makeshift shelter to keep out of the rain, and reflecting on the downturn in his luck.

“We twiddle our thumbs and pray.”

Idi’s job is a transiting agent — to get goods across the border to Nigeria at the Dan Issa frontier post in southeastern Niger.

But he has been out of work since Nigeria dramatically closed its borders with its neighbours on August 20, declaring it wanted to put an end to chronic smuggling.

Niger, which shares a 1,500-kilometre (900-mile) border with Nigeria, has been badly hit by the closure, along with Benin. Both nations are among the poorest in the world.

A long line of lorries from Niger and elsewhere in West Africa is stranded at Dan Issa. Some are full, some laden with goods. The drivers and their assistants sleep on the ground or in the cabins of their vehicles.

All along the 30 kilometre road between the border and the city of Maradi, customs officials and police officers sip tea or coffee and chat.

Groups of young people at a loose end and motorbike taxi drivers short of customers play cards under the shade of the trees.

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