The Republic of Benin is a Francophone country bordering Nigeria in the West , stressing through the Badagry West and South LGA of Lagos State and some part of Ogun State. Benin Republic can be access through Nigeria by both land and sea, including numerous bush routes and creeks. Benin Republic is regarded as an import depended Country, especially on food stuff and house hold items, like rice, vegetable oil, frozen products, used clothing, vehicles among others.
Statistics have revealed that, most of the importations into Benin Republic ports are solely designated to move into Nigerian markets and this long standing trade factor has always caused diplomatic rows between both Countries.
Such trade misunderstanding has led to the closure of the Seme – Krake border in the last eight years between Nigeria and Benin Republic among other bordering countries.
Unfortunately, that policy by the Nigerian government has not make any meaningful impact in the Nigerian economy, instead it’s breeds dearth of business, grounded import and export activities and other international businesses within Nigeria.
Recently, the Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu visited Benin Republic, the Acting Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi has also visited Benin Republic. Both visits were anchored on improving the bilateral trade between both Countries. But can this renewed hope to improved trade between both Countries saw the light of the day?
MULTIPLE CHECKPOINTS ALONG THE LAGOS- BENIN CORRIDOR AS AN OBSTACLE TO BILATERAL TRADE
Its no longer news that the Mile 2- Badagry- Seme road , leading into Benin Republic has been known for years as a ” Gallary of checkpoints route”. Latest reports has identified 52 Checkpoints mounted by various agencies of government from Badagry Roundabout to Seme Border. Our latest investigations have also reveals most of the illegal checkpoints are mounted by Men of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).
Among these embarrassing galaxy of checkpoints, the Nigerian Police Force ( NPF) accounted for over 30 , despite the fact that , barely a month ago, the Acting Inspector General of Police, has ordered the dismantling of those illegal checkpoints and some arrest were made. Trust the Police, as soon as the dust settles, few days later , the police were back to continue their not only corrupt laden trade , but embarrassing and harassing travellers to part with N100, N200, N1000 and above.
The remaining checkpoints are mounted by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Army ( NA), Nigerian Immigration Service ( NIS), Nigerian Plant Quarantine Service, Federal Road Safety and Corps . The irony of these checkpoints is that most of them are man by miscreants ( Area boys, Touts, Kelebe , Camp boys) on behalf of their masters ( uniform operatives) who wield big sticks and other dangerous weapons harassing travellers with reckless abandon for money in an international corridor route running from Nigeria to Abijan.
Sometimes, these checkpoints can multiply above 50, especially when approaching weekends.
Recall that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) recently had a Memorandum of Understanding ( MoU) with the Customs Administration of Benin Republic on seamless trade facilitation between the both countries.
The MoU simply means that, Nigerian bound goods can be cleared at Benin Republic ports, pay the necessary duties and fees due for Nigeria from Benin Republic ports and move the goods direct to Nigeria without any incumbrance at the Nigerian border. Same goes to Benin Republic bound goods to be cleared in Nigerian ports and pay due taxes to the government of Benin Republic from Nigerian ports.
In the course of the MoU, the menace of corruption, extortions and harassment by Nigerian officials crop up as a disturbing factor. Part of it was identified with the multiple checkpoints which stands as agent of corruption in the Nigeria- Benin Republic corridor and this has not change, despite the efforts by both the Police and Customs hierarchy to address the menace.
It could be recalled that the NCS during the regime of Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) as CGC of Nigeria Customs Service, before the border was closed has entered into similar MoU with Benin Republic for e- clearance of Vehicles , where Nigerian bound vehicles in Cotonuo ports could be access by Nigeria Customs Service for the purpose of accurate duty collection. A portal was launch with fanfare at the ECOWAS building at Seme border with both Countries officials pledging commitments. But , that MoU never saw the light of the day.
Again Nigeria, through the NCS is making inroad into another lofty revenue trajectory that will build trade and revenue generating confidence for both Countries.
It is imperative to note that , the greatest hindrance to this feat is the multiple Extortion points mostly mounted by the Nigeria Police , along the Nigeria- Benin- Abijan corridor.
It’s now behove on the Inspector General of Police of Nigeria to muster the political and intelligence will to dismantle this monster of disgrace post by his Officers and Men as an albatross against the trade MoU.
Nigeria is the only Country in the world that you see over eight check points within a kilometer. Without exergerating , between Badagry Roundabout and before Gbaji bridge, less than two kilometers you will find eight to ten checkpoints. After the Gbaji bridge, less than one kilometre, where it could be termed “Checkpoints/ Extortions Gallary” you will find between 12 to 15 checkpoints on both sides. What more can be embarrassing for a country more than this scenes.?
In view of the recent agreement with the Benin Republic, the Association of Maritime Journalists of Nigeria (AMJON) is calling on the Acting Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Adewale Adeniyi MFR to as a matter of urgency, seek the intervention of the Inspector General of Police and other sister agencies who have turn the Badagry – Seme border route to extortions haven to desist from such for the new trade agreement to achieve its aim.
The synergy is necessary as been expected to benefit both Countries , especially in the areas of bilateral trade and revenue generation. If the NCS is able to break this jinx , then , the Service will have renewed the hope of international trade partners, importers, Exporters and investors in the international trade chain.
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