- Transport Ministry recommends land border reopening for vehicle imports
- Seme Customs to stop street hawking, trading at border-posts
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission has lamented that arbitrary charges at Seme border and other land borders within the sub-region account for 15 percent hike in transit cross-border trade.
ECOWAS Principal Programme Officer in-charge of Roads and Railways, Engr. Ashoke Maliki revealed this during a Joint Border meeting with delegates from Nigeria and Benin Republic at Seme-Krake border, yesterday.
Meanwhile, the Director of Road Transport, Ministry of Transportation, Mr. Ibrahim Musa at the meeting disclosed that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has received from the Ministry a paper on the challenges confronting border communities and a recommendation to reopen the land borders for vehicle importation.
According to the ECOWAS official, the facilities provided by ECOWAS at the Seme border are being mismanaged despite huge resources expended to acquire them and the training of Nigerian and Benin officials on proper utilization of the assets.
He equally argued that the Seme-Krake border-post isn’t a storage facility, particularly lamenting that the Krake (Benin axis) is flooded with motorcycles while the Common User Areas at the joint border aren’t accorded the requisite exclusivity.
Ashoke observed that the weightbridge and scanners are not being utilized, emphasising that the usage of the weightbridge and scanners is very important and officers from both countries should be present during scanning and weighing.
“The Joint Border Post isn’t a storage yard or parking space. Vehicles, motorcycles other equipments stationed at the area should be moved away. There is also an exclusion on the Control Zones of respective countries but the Common Control Zones is where both nations can work together,” he said.
Ashoke asserted that the visit was to appraise the activities at the border-post and challenges being faced by operators – Customs, Immigration and others from both countries. He also encouraged the agencies and stakeholders to intimate the Commission with specific issues the Sub-Regional body should discuss with the national presidents.
Meanwhile, the Director, Road Transport, Ministry of Transportation, Mr. Ibrahim Musa stated that following appeals by freight forwarders operating at the Seme border directed to the former Minister of State for Transportation, a document was developed and sent to the FEC.
His words: “I was here with the former Minister of State for Transportation and the Freight Forwarders pleaded that the border should be reactivated for free movement of goods and services. The Minister made us to prepare a memo to that effect. It was considered and sent to the government”
While pledging to address the concerns of the ECOWAS Commission, the Chairman of the Seme-Krake Joint Border Security Management Team for Nigeria, Comptroller Dera Nnadi mni, also reechoed the views of the Transport Minister on trade at the land border.
In a separate meeting with royalties, community chiefs, women and youth leaders, Comptroller Nnadi stated that the Command will curb street hawking and petty trading at Seme-Krake border corridor which disparages the international transit road.
Nnadi, however, described Seme border region as the most peaceful border he has served at as a Customs officer, pointing out that he was yet to receive any information about a clash between the community residents and Customs amid the high-level anti-smuggling activities in the area.
He called for a more seamless relationship between Customs officers and the community residents who he described as the real owners of the land border and its assets.
After listening to the plights and challenges of the border communities, the Customs boss assured the stakeholders of positive improvements even as he disclosed that the Service will prioritize more Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects for schools and youths.
The rapport availed the new Customs boss firsthand accounts of some alleged unpalatable activities of Customs as well as a better understanding of the perception of Customs officers held by its host.
One of the highpoints of the meeting was the presentation of sport kits to community leaders after the Customs Community-Relations dialogue.