By Stephen Ubanna
Last Monday, October Ist, 2018, Economic and Social activities were virtually grounded to a halt at Cotonou, Republic of Benin, as all roads lead to the Nigeria Embassy in Cotonou to join kayode Oguntunase, the Nigerian Ambassador and his officials to celebrate Nigeria’s 58th Independence anniversary.
The situation became more worrisome at Seme, a border Community between the country and the French speaking country as key government and Republic of Benin government officials were at Cotonou on the invitation of the Ambassador to join the embassy in the Independence dinner Anniversary.
The fallout of the Embassy Independence Anniversary dinner was the disruption of the movement oftruck laden goods from Cotonou port to the trailer park at the Seme joint border post This is because the Nigeria Customs officials and other security Operatives who take delivery of the trucks from their Beninoa counterparts for proper document before being driven to the scanner site for scanning were at Cotonou to honor the Nigeria Ambassador invitation.
The near one day low key activities at the Cotonou port and Seme border may have downed on the Benininoass that Nigeria businessmen hold the key to the country’s economy. Notwithstanding the fact some land locked countries like Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso, mostly use the Cotonou port for their transit cargoes, the volume, according to a Beninoa government official was nothing compared to the volume that enters into the Nigerian market alone daily.
As a prelude to the celebration, the Embassy officials were said to have made elaborate preparation as different Nigeria dancing groups in Republic Benin were contracted to entertain the crowd. It was learnt that the oguntiae could not hide his joy when he saw the cream of Nigeria government officials at the border, particular, Mohameed Uba Garba, Comptroller at Seme Command because of their close working relation to clear the boder route of smugglers and Benin government officials including key officials from other agencies.
The Ambassador may have assured Nigerians that the Embassy would continue to do their best to ensure that their Diplomatic needs in the country were met. Appealing to Nigerians resident in Benin to Cooperate with the Embassy officials, he explained that it is the only way to serve them better. He thanked Patrice Talon, the President of the Republic of Benin for his support , assuring that Nigeria will will continously work harmoniously with the government of Republic by way of Collaboration towards enhancing the existing Cordial relationship between the two countries in the areas of trade and Investment. the two countries have been deeply involved in the Economic Community of West African States Trade Liberalisation Scheme, ECOWAS TLS, a regional integration.
Given the harmonious relationship , the two countries, were said to have set up a joint anti-smuggling C team to police the border to forestal smuggling activities. Hameed Ali, the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service,NCS, have been much worried about the smuggling foreign parboiled rice, Vegetable Oil, poultry products and petrol across the border.
It is not surprising why the Ambassador has consistently advised Nigerians against the smuggling of petrol across the border, stressing that the government still the help of the Embassy to eradicate the vices at the land border. ” We must stop in engaging in smuggling as the country is losing billions of naira on the illicit act. He shared the same vision with Muhammed , the Customs Comptroller at Seme Command who had assured him that smugglers will face tough time . The Magazine learnt the Comptroller was the cynosure of all eyes at the Independence anniversary dinner at the Embassy as Journalists swooped on him to know about his anti-smuggling war including the NTA. He did hesitate in using the opportunity provided at the Embassy to appeal to turn a new leaf or be prepared for the consequences of losing both their smuggled goods and money to the government. He warned that there is no hiding place for smugglers at the Seme land border as his officers with the support of other security agencies personnel are daily patrolling the regular routes of the smugglers and the Creeks to their activities. He commended Oguntuase, the Nigerian Am Ambassador to the Republic of Benin and his Beninioa counterpart for their support to control smuggling activities in the area. He could not hide his feelings over the robust working relationship between the Nigeria government and the Republic of Benin which had simplified officers job at the border.
It is not surprising why Talon , the Country’s President was said to have piled up pressure on president Muhammadu Buhari to lift the ban on the importation of vehicles through the land border into Nigeria to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.
The policy which took effect last year January was said to be have a telling effect on the country’economy as many car marts owned by Indians, Lebanese and Nigerians in Cotonou are operating in bits and fits as many Nigerian buyers have kept away from Cotonou to avoid falling into the waiting hands of Customs personnel. The fallout was the increased smuggling of vehicles through illegal routes into the country and the intensified anti-mugging operations of Federal Operations Unit, fFOU, in the south west geo-political region comprising of Lagos, Ogun, Eki, Ondo , Oyo and Osun.
A sources told the Magazine while Seme Command officers have fully taken over Seme and its environs, the FOU, Zone A, officers , operating as Operationsand Lagos Roving team, Rapid response or crack Squad, armed to the teeth with the Compliment of the Headquarters Strike Fource, Coordinated by Abdullahi Kirawa, a Deputy Comptroller are swarming like bees at Idiroko, in Ogun state, Iseyin and Shaki, Oyo state and other land border stations and Creeks in the region.
Security experts confirmed that the combination of Muhammed, the anti-smuggling Czar at Seme and his counterpart at FOU, Zone A, Adamu Aliyu. Mohammed, smuggling has reduced considerably at Seme and the South west in general. Only recently, the FOU, Zone A, Operations and Lagos Roving team intercepted nine bullet proof vehicles in various illegal locations in Ogun state. The cheapest of the black bullet proof jeeps of different vehicle models was put at about N200 million. The smugglers could easily smuggled the exotic bullet proof jeeps that had had no end user certificate from the Ogun state porous borders because Muhammed and his officers higtened up Seme and its environs.