By Nwangwu Uba
For years there have been a silent war going at the land border areas between officials of port Health Service and other government agencies. The port Health officials, according to sources, have been found to be doing the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS and Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA jobs, which these agencies officials did not find funny.
The situation is more worrisome at Seme Command where the port Health workers had at different times clashed with the NCS, Immigration, Customs and NDLEA officials over interference in their area of responsibility to check travelers bags and import documents instead of restraining themselves to the enforcement of the rules for the issuance of yellow fever cards.
There is no gain saying the fact that inoculation against yellow fever by international travelers from other countries to Nigeria is compulsory as Nigerian travelers are also expected to take the yellow fever vaccine injection before jetting out of the country to Europe or the United states including African countries. The rules may have been relaxed for travelers from member countries of the Economic Community of West African countries because of ECOWAS protocol.
This may have left the Port Health Service officials with little or no job to do at the nation’s land borders but to encroach on other agencies job: check travelers and import documents as well as look out for drugs and arms .
The Value News Magazine cited the Port Health officials at the ECOWAS major route at Seme-Krake Border, the health officials at the the Seme-Krake land Border struggling with Immigration officials to check travelers documents. They were found to be asking the travelers who are mostly from Ghana, Togo and Cot D’Ivoire to produce their VISA or ECOWAS travelers certificate. The Value Magazine discovered that they never gave opportunity to the immigration officials who were trained to do the job to do it, fueling speculations that the Port Health officials may be up to something. The activities of the port health officials at the Border was not different from what they are doing along the Lagos-Seme road where the presence of the Customs , police and the Border patrol Immigration officials are much felt. The unruffled white shirt stand them out as government officials who have no business on the road. It could not be compared to the Customs, Immigration or police personnel who stand on the scorch sun to check motorists and passengers.
A security source who spoke to the Magazine confirmed that the port health officials business at the land border or the road was basically to extort money from motorists as the opportunity is not there to help travelers obtain the yellow fever vaccine card without vaccination for a paltry sum of N2,000.00. It is not surprising why they rush motorists and passengers along the ECOWAS route as if they are Customs, Immigration or NDLEA officials to collect their own settlement.
Investigations by the Magazine shows that there are many countries where the yellow fever vaccination rules did not to apply to their travelers coming to Nigeria because of the bilateral relationship with these countries which had relaxed the rule to facilitate movement of goods and services, particular, ECOWAS countries. That much was confirmed by a Senior Immigration officer.
Insiders told The Value news that Customs , Immigration and NDLEA officials may have been tolerating the port health officials over the years in the spirit of inter agency relationship.
Given the heavy presence of security agencies along the nation’s border routes in the north, southwest and the south-south geo-political regions, President Muhammadu Buhari moves to streamline the number of security agencies that should be found along the border routes. Buhari, according to sources, was said to have given the nod to Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Federal government to send out the letters to the agencies at the land border for immediate compliance.
Insiders informed The Value News that directives had already been sent to the port Health, NDLEA, Immigration and Customs Commands at the land border stations. The directive was said to have made it explicitly clear that port health officials are not supposed to be on the road as part of measures taken to reduce the number of security agencies at the land border and the seaports.
A port health official from Republic of Benin who spoke with the Magazine disclosed that it is only in Nigeria that government agencies struggle to be on the road to do either Customs or immigration jobs. He stressed that it is rare to find port health officials on the road because they have no business being on the road to struggle to check travelers document or import documents with Immigration or Customs personnel.
This is where Isaac Adewole, a Professor and minister of Health may have to take the Buhari’s directive on the approved agencies that should be at the seaport or land borders to enjoin his men at the border to confine themselves to their responsibility of issuance of yellow fever vaccine cards and other duties as enshrined in the law setting it up instead of encroaching on Customs , Immigration or NDLEA, jobs to facilitate global trade.
Already, the government has ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement , thus becoming the 170th member country of the World Trade Organisation to do so. It is not surprising why Buhari may not want any security agency to be identified as posing a stumbling block to the implantation of the WTO agreement. The WTO, according to a ministry of Trade official had enjoined the Nigerian government to curb the excessive bureaucracy that exists when goods are moved across land Borders across the country. Okechukwu Enelamah, the minister of Trade, has no option but to work closely with Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Muhammad Babandede, Comptroller General of Immigration and Ibrahim Idris, the Inspector General of police, IGP, to ensure enforcement of the government policy to avoid been sanctioned by the WTO.
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