Seme: Saving Nigeria Billions Of Naira By Blocking The Border-Post Truck Park

By Stephen Ubanna

Over the years , Nigeria has been losing  billions of naira annually from the illegal activities going at the Joint border post truck park. This is because there was no  proper control of the  activities at the Border truck park where transit truck laden cargoes are kept before being cleared to  go into the Nigeria territory to start the clearing process. The situation was  said to be worse between 2004 and 2015, forcing Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service to start looking for ways to block the loopholes of revenue leakage in the Command.

One of the cleverest ways used by importers while their trucks were still at the Republic of Benin Truck park at the border post  was to start selling the goods  to their Customers who  sell it the Border post  or cross over  to the Nigeria side of the border to  hawk it, mostly clothing materials. The foreign parboiled rice  were sold  at the  Seme market  or smuggled into Nigeria through  unapproved routes.

The  Seme Command Customs Authorities   appear to have  found an answer to the illegal trading  of Nigeria bound cargoes  at the Border truck park.

This is evident going by the fencing of the Border   truck park between Nigeria and republic of Benin by the Customs Command. The Magazine learnt that the  Contractor had mobilised  on site last Thursday  to start the  project. The blocking of the truck, according to a source is coming  barely two week after  President Muhammadu Buhari and Patrice Talon, his counterpart in Republic of Benin performed the official  handing over ceremony of the multi- million dollar Seme-Krake new  Joint  Border Post  built by the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, with the financial support of the European Union Commission, EUC.  Muhammed Uba Garba, the Customs Comptroller , Seme, Command, said the  they came out with the idea to  block the truck park at the  Border Community for  all transit cargoes to pass through the official ECOWAS route , which is the S eme-Krake Joint Border post.

The Command  was said to have  started the project after securing the approval of Ali, the Comptroller General, who may have been thinking along that line to block the truck park with the opening of the Seme -Krake Joint Border Post and the ECOWAS Administrative building,  which would be used by Customs officials of Nigeria and Benin and other  security  agencies personnel from the two countries  for their operations .

Many had expected Mohammed,  and his Management team to move their  operational office  to the ECOWAS b

Mohammed Uba Garba: Comptroller, Seme Command, blocking border Truck Park

uilding  to facilitate the sharing of information  with their Beninois  counterparts on the transit cargoes..

 

But the Command   may still be operating from its old site for now  because of perceived  certain facilities  such as  Computerisation of the offices  to facilitate sharing of information between the two  countries Customs  Administrations   which , according to sources had not been Completed.  The Seme-Krake Joint Borde Post is supposed to be a  one spot location  for examination between officials of Customs from the two  the countries. Nigeria and republic of Benin operate different  fiscal policies. Take for instance, in Republic of Benin ,  foreign rice is not a prohibited item as importers are allowed to import it without restriction   while  in Nigeria it  is  banned from being imported into the country through the land border, to protect local rice farmers.

The fallout was that many Nigeria rice importers who could not stand the law,  relocated to Cotonou port,  Republic of Benin  to continue their rice imports and were highly welcome  port  because of the huge revenue that  rice attracts. Last Friday alone,  Rashid Adahunse, the Commmand Deputy Comptroller, confirmed  the seizure of 1785 bags of rice of 50kg each at Pawu, within the Seme, in one of its operations..

Maritime analysts believe  that with the Coming together of officials both countries at  the ECOWAS  Administrative building   Nigeria Customs personnel may be able to have  an insider knowledge on  the type of cargoes Ships berthing at the Cotonou port  would be discharging and the transit cargoes  coming t Nigeria.

That much was confirmed by Buhari,  the Nigeria President,  who said that bringing the border Administrations  together in the ECOWAS  Administrative building  and connecting them to each other  will help  improve  the performance of the respective countries  Customs Administrations and the ”confort of   the movement  of people and their goods”. He was optimistic that the nation’s Customs Administrations will be more efficient  in their  mission of revenue generation and anti-smuggling operations. This is in addition to improving regional integration  which was one of the core mandate of ECOWAS.

Going by the new arrangement all  cargoes including imported cargoes coming from  Republic of Benin  coming into Nigeria are now to be treated as imports  while cargoes from Nigeria going into the ECOWAS  country  would be treated as  exports  in their Customs officials .   Maritime experts had expected the ECOWAS to install scanners at  JBP for  the one  stop  examination and  clearing    of  truck laden cargos by Customs officials of both countries  .

.Given an insider information,  Adahunse, the Customs Deputy Comptroller ,  disclosed that what was  provided at the JBP by ECOWAS and EUC,   was a” weighing Bridge for trucks”. The weighing Bridge, according to him gives out the weight of the truck, stressing that  that the weight of a truck gives an idea what  the Height of the truck should be .

Given the International  Status of the Seme-Krake Joint Border post , Kayode Oguntunashe, Nigeria Ambassador to Republic  of Benin,  believes that what ought to have been provided  at the Border post in order checkmate the menace  of Smuggling activities along  the  Abidjan-Lagos Corridor  was to install scanner machines.

The Ambassador was who was said to have highlighted  the economic and security challenges along  the Nigeria and Benin Borders to include  massive  smuggling activities of prohibited goods the land borders, proliferation  of small arms  and light weapons, Human trafficking, piracy, illegal bunkering and oil theft and international terrorism.  But the Ambassador believes that the economic  challenges of massive smuggling of prohibited goods  along the Abidjan -Lagos corridor could be tackled headlong with the installation of scanners at Nigeria-Benin borders, particular, the Seme-Krake Joint Border post ,  the busiest border in the West African sub-region.

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