Nigeria Customs Moving Operations To The ECOWAS Building At Seme-Krake Joint Border Post

By Stephen Ubanna

The Nigeria Customs Service,  NCS,  Seme Command, Administrative machinery is gradually being moved to the multi-million dollar  Economic Community  of West African States, ECOWAS, building at Seme-Krake Joint Border  post.

As a prelude to the movement  of  Mohammed Uba Garba,  the Comptroller of the Command and other  key  Departments of the Command to the ECOWAS, building, the Magazine learnt that the Import , Export , Economic and Trade Liberalization  Scheme, ETLS  and the Baggage Seats have already relocated  to the new office site to join their Beninois counterparts who had  moved in.  Visitors who have had the opportunity of getting to the building  said the offices and a joint  Conference room were furnished to international  standard with the support of the European Union Commission, EUC,  which also provided financial support  for the Joint  border project and the Administrative building.

Mohammed, the Seme Customs Comptroller and  the other key Departments of the Command may not have  been in a hurry to relocate their offices  to the new office site  because  of the problem of  interconnectivity of the  offices  and other vital facilities which have to be put in place  , such as provision of  scanner machines  for joint examination of import and export cargoes between the two countries and source of  electricity supply if  there happen to be power failure in the border.

For a start, the EUC, was said to have  made provision for two scanner machines to replace the weigh Bridge for use of truck laden cargoes at the land border. The scanners, according to a source, would be installed  at the Seme-Krake, Joint Border between Nigeria and Republic of Benin and Noepe, another Joint Border post , in the West African region between Ghana and Togo.

The Magazine gathered that  at the Seme-Krake , Border  officials had already  mapped out a parcel of land  at a strategic location within the ECOWAS  building site  where  the scanner would be installed between now and early next year for easy joint examination of cargoes between the Nigeria  Customs  personnel  and their Beninois counterparts including other security agencies  operatives from the two countries.

The Magazine learnt  that  the European Union Commission, EUC, which had provided the financial support for  the building  of the multi-million Euro project . was said to have made arrangement for the provision of  two Scanner machines. One of the scanner machines, according to sources, would  be installed  at Seme-Krake   joint Border post and the second scanner  would be installed  at Noepe , another joint Border post , which is between  Ghana and Togo.

It would be recalled that  Kayode Oguntunashe,  Nigeria Ambassador  to Republic of Benin had at the completion of the Seme-Krake Joint  border post  in readiness for its official handing over ceremony to the  countries of Nigeria and Republic of Benin expressed the  need  for the installation  of scanner machine   at the Joint Border post  to facilitate joint examination of cargoes by the  two  nations Customs and other security agencies officials.

A source who cited a recent physical  examination of an ETLS, cargo , at the Joint Border site,  disclosed that the cargoes were evacuated from the truck to ascertain that it was truly  manufactured in the ECOWAS  subregion and re-parked into the truck after the examination was completed. Ordinarily the physical examination of the truck laden cargo  could have been avoided if the scanner machine had been installed  instead of the weigh Bridge which could only give the weight  and height of the truck laden cargo.

Many are optimistic that installation of the scanner machines would save the Customs and other security personnel  at the Joint Border posts  the hassles of physical examination of cargoes.

This is because the scanner at the joint Border post would serve the purpose  of the  two countries importers and exporters as  Customs  personnel of the two countries would be at the same  office site to read the images of truck laden trucks   to write the report of their results to facilitate the release of cargoes.

Until the scanner machines are installed at the Border site, the Nigeria Customs may likely continue to use its  own scanners  at the  Seme land to examine  truck laden cargoes which had successfully scaled through the  weigh Bridge    and allowed to enter the Nigeria side of the Border through the ECOWAS official route.

Muhammed, the Seme  Customs boss  may have made matters worse for  importers, exporters with their agents  including Cross – Border smugglers with the fencing of the short-cut  route at the land border post mostly  used by truck laden  drivers  from Republic of Benin are employed  by agents   to drive the hired  truck into the Nigeria side of the  Joint Seme -Krake  Border  post for examination at the scanner site  to transact their business at the border post. The  The Beninois government officials  at the Border were said to have thrown their weight behind the  Border  short cut fencing project by the Nigeria  Customs to forestall  petrol  and other  Contraband smugglers who use  tricycles , with inbuilt   bunker tanks to carry out their nefarious activities. Before now,     filling stations at the Nigeria side of the land border post always run out of  business because of insufficient petrol to sell to the public. This is how the Beninois  smugglers would drive in to the Nigeria side of the Border with their  tricycles to clear the stock at the filling stations because of the alleged reports making the rounds  that the dealers makes more profit by selling to the tricycles with their adjusted meters than selling to Nigeria  motorists.

The rot appears to have stopped since Muhammed, the Seme Customs Comptroller embarked on the fencing project as motorists could now drive into a filling station at the  land border and fill their tanks without complaint  or told  that there is no petrol or diesel in stock to sell to the public. The petrol smuggled from Nigeria  into Republic of Benin in the tricycles inbuilt bunkers     which are  emptied into available  jerry cans were sold in bottles on the road from Seme-  Cotonou , the country’s Capital.

But  Immigration officials who spoke to the Magazine  said the project is good to control the movement of  persons, goods and services  at the border  post  but that it would affect their job.  This is because  immigrants  who find their way into Nigeria  through the short cut routes  were said to have diverted  to the old  border post  which is an open space to  enter Nigeria without interruption.

There  have been pressure  on the Customs Authorities to  fence the old border post  to forestall the movement of immigrants from other countries into Nigeria. The Customs Authorities may not have the power to do so  because  it is a border post between  two countries.  A Diplomat told the Magazine that the land  could only be fenced  based on agreement between the government of the two countries or  the ECOWAS, to make it official.

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