By Stephen Ubanna
For much of last week and now Economic and social activities at the Seme-Krake Joint Border between Nigerian and Republic of Benin had come to a halt This is because f the Border drills jointly carried out by the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, under the leadership of Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel, in Collaboration with Mohammad Babadende led Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, and other security and intelligence agencies including the Nigerian Police Force, NPF.
Described as the busiest Border in the African Continent because of the consistent movement of goods and services across the Border, the situation appear to have hanged in the last one week with no sign of improvement. The Value news visit to the Border Community was very revealing : the situation was very worrisome. At the entry and exit point of the One Stop Joint Border are hundreds of truck laden goods, tankers loaded with Semi processed vegetable oil and Heavy duty vehicles awaiting to be given the green light by the members of the Ex-Swift Response which is not quick to come.
The situation is so bad as the temporary Park provided by the Seme Customs Authorities for transit cargoes has become a shadow of itself as scores of casual workers at the park were found working around for lack of job to do.
Many Agents were found to have abandoned their trucks at the examination bay at the Joint Border. There are indications that the Seme Command may have lost millions of naira as Agents have refused to come forward to process their clients transit import documents in order to take delivery of the cargoes for fear of being harassed on the road by the Joint Border security Operatives who are strategically positioned between the Lagos –Seme road.
Efforts to speak to Abubakar Amajam, an Assistant Comptroller General General, ACG, in –charge of the south-west Border drill and Abdullahi Kirawa, a Deputy Comptroller and Head of Operations on the alleged delay in allowing transit trucks from Benin terminal, Cotonou, and Bollere port in Republic of Benin to enter the country for the importers with their Clearing Agents to take delivery proved abortive.
The Magazine took time out in an undercover investigation to observe what is happening at the pedestrian way provided for free movement of persons to facilitate trade between two countries at the Joint Border but found no trace of Cross –Border movement of goods and services since the Border drill started penultimate Tuesday evening.
Chukwukadibia Okoro, a cross border business man said the consequences of the Border drill which had entered the second week is very worrisome as dealers on perishable goods like pineapple are no longer finding easy to supply their Nigerian Customs who had placed order for it.
An angry Abdul Musa, a resident of Krake Community had cried out: what do we do now. He noted as a trader, he would have known how his money on other trade goods within the Border Community if the Nigerian government had given the time lag for the border drill exercise to elapse.
Chukwukadibia Okoro, another resident of the krake Community Community on the Beninoise side of the Joint Border, who spoke to The Magazine lamented that ‘’ it is now very difficult to feed at home’’ . Okoro, who had been living at Krake for the past ten years dealing on perishable goods like Pineapple and fresh tomatoes stopped short at saying that there is hunger in Benin Republic as petty traders, taxi drivers, market women were all affected.
One of the market women who could not hide her feelings said the atmosphere in Seme –Krake Joint Border was not different from what is happening in the Border Communities in in Kano and Jigawa states with Nigeria, where the Border drill Operatives had cut off the sources traded goods supplies to the land locked country from Nigeria.
The Beninoise female trader at the Seme open market challenged The Value News to enter the Border Community in order to actually find out what is happening:. The Situation is bad. The beninoise women at the Border have every reason to worry as many of them survive in carrying load for travellers across the Border for a fee.
Some of them also engage in crossing the Border to buy foreign par boiled rice for Nigerians for home use. These sources of income had be lost , forcing many of them to be roaming aimlessly on the Busy Seme road. Perhaps, what the Youths of the Border Communities appear to have lost most is smuggling of foreign rice and vegetable oil across the Border , particular, in Ogun state, which has several Border Communities with Benin.
According to the NIS, there are over 80 unapproved routes alone in the state. Michael Agbara, Comptroller Idiroko Command, who has been working round the clock to contain the activities of the smugglers may have had a breather with the coming of the Joint Security Operatives, who has a Presidential mandate to protect Nigerian’s land and maritime Borders.
An elated Joseph Attah, a Deputy Comptroller and Cutoms Spokesperson, said the the ‘’resolve by Nigerian security agencies to secure the country’s territorial waters , particular, the maritime Borders against trans- Border Crimes has started yielding result’’. Attah alluded that that that the exercise which commenced in four sectors comprising of the south west, south-south, north west and north east geo-political regions have witnessed a number of seizures and arrests.
He noted that as at Tuesday, August 26, 2019, 3,560 ‘’50’’ Bags of foreign par boiled rice, , 59 bags of NPK, fertilizer, 15 vehicles, , 12 drums of vegetable oil, four trucks, 75 gallons of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popular, Petrol, 29 motorcycles, 68 gallons of vegetable oil, 10 Jerrycans of PMS had been seized from smugglers.
Unconfirmed report said most of the seizures were made in the north west and Ogun state, where smuggling activities , particular, smuggling of rice, were said to have reduced considerably. Amajam, the ACG, over- seeing the Ex-Swift Response in the south west was said to have told those that cares to listen smuggling activities in the state, which is notorious for rice had dropped to about 50 percent. But Saki and Iseyi axis in Oyo and Osun states, a source told The Magazine a trouble area.
It is not surprising why the Federal Operations Unit, FOU Zone A, under Comptroller Mohammed Aliyu, set up Strike Force, Headed by One Ahmed, a Superintend of Customs and his boys are giving the rice smugglers in the area a run for their money by engaging the services of informants to track them.
It is not surprising why the Command like Seme Command under, Muhammed Uba Garba, the Area Comptroller, are still making rice and vegetable oil seizures despite the Border drill joint carried out by all the security agencies including the Department of Security, DSS, and Directorate of Military Intelligence, DMI.
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