The adhoc Senate Committee on Customs and Excise has encouraged the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Seme Border Command to broker and peace between the Command and the host communities.
Members of the adhoc Senate Committee made this call today when it visited the Seme-Krake Joint Border Post as part of its oversight functions.
According to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs, Senator Francis Fadahunsi, the move for peace had become necessary following clashes and casualties between host communities and Customs as the residents clamour for total reopening of the border.
“This visit and the meeting was necessitated by the need to put a stop to casualties and resultant deaths caused by crossfire between members of the service and host communities,” he said.
The legislators also engaged stakeholders within the Seme border corridor on issues of national wellbeing, security, peace and harmony, even as the discussions dovetailed towards reversal policy ban on vehicle imports and other items through the land border.
Fadahunsi, who retired as a Deputy Comptroller-General of Customs, expressed displeasure at the cases of avoidable deaths which plague border communities, stating that but for the erection of a border, Nigerians live on both sides of the divide.
He argued that there is a dire need to exercise caution in the use of arms to make for a more harmonious and peaceful coexistence between the Service, it’s sister agencies, relevant stakeholders, members of the host communities, Nigerians and Africa at large.
Fadahunsi, however, noted that while the Service goes about performing its duties in trade facilitation by ensuring that all cases of illegitimate trade are brought to book, it should however consider the proximity between communities around the border and encourage trade in household commodities.
“Why are you killing yourselves? The security agencies are here. The border communities have their own security agencies. On behalf of the national assembly, I am here to know what communities are facing in the hands of security agencies specifically in the hands of customs. The other is on rice and tokunbo vehicles. That was part of why the Senate leadership had to raise a team of senators.”
“The government needs a harmonious relationship to generate more revenue to take care of the host communities and other services. We want you to say it the way it is. We that have come. Here are your representatives. We have come here to hear you and make serious recommendations so that you can live at peace,” Fadahunsi said.
Subsequently, he advised that the Service tilts towards a free flow of commodities such as rice in consumption quantities for households to reduce the humongous cost of travelling to far distances for food.
“There must not be any disparity between the Republic of Benin and Nigeria. On the other side, we have Nigerians. Here we have Nigerians. On the other side, half of the people are Yoruba. What do we do to ensure that the synergy to trade across the border that does not amount to smuggling remember, you know what that is, not of commercial quantity. It is more a matter of common sense and cultural unity. One bag of rice or one Jerry can of fuel is of household consumption. It is left for you and border communities to know that that does not amount to smuggling.
Also speaking, a representative of the Badagry Chamber of Commerce Industry, Mines and Agriculture (BACCIMA), Mr Bisingu Lasisi, noted that some of the friction was caused by inability of members of host communities to trade in commercial quantity of rice and vehicles as prohibited by extant laws of the state.
He added that while the trade restriction has shut down businesses of many traders on the Nigeria side of the divide, the Senate Committee should look into opening up the border to legitimate trade while introducing duty for the prohibited commodities so as to meet local demand and increase revenue generation through duty payment for the government.
On his part, the Customs Area Comptroller (CAC), Comptroller Dera Nnadi mni, while recounting the various achievements of the Command noted that among the challenges faced by the command are the bad roads which impedes easy movement to and from the Command.
Comptroller Nnadi also recalled that during the recent visir of the Acting Comptroller-General of Customs, Adewale Adeniyi MFR, to the Seme border, the Customs boss had reassured the border community of complete reopening of the borders whilst admonishing them to partner Customs and other security agencies in curbing smuggling and other negative vices at the border.
The meeting which held at the the conference hall of the Seme-Krake Customs Command, was attended by top officers of the Command, security agencies agencies, stakeholders and traditional rulers of host communities to deliberate on measures to foster peace at the border.