Seme Bounces Back For Business

By Stephen Ubanna

Importers with their clearing agents who had relocated to Nigerian seaports to do their business because of the government harsh economic policies which did not favour importers using other ports in the west African sub-region are gradually having a change of mind. This is because one of the major problems faced at the land Border post which was eating deep into finances appear to have been solved by Mohammed Uba Garba, Comptroller Seme Command through the rigid enforcement of the Customs International law on transit cargoes.

prior to the decision of the Customs Comptroller, who has the backing of Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, to go ahead with the implementation of the policy, in line with the European Union, EU, One Stop Border Post, popular Joint Border Post, Nigerian importers a with their agents were exploited in Lome seaport in Togo, Cotonou port in Republic of Benin and Tema port, Ghana among others. The situation was worse in Cotonou port were made to pay through their nose if they desire an extension of time  for their cargo to remain at the port before delivery.

The agents were said to to be the worst hit as they could not clear any client Consignment at Cotonou port without subletting the job to a Beninoise agent who must process the importers’ document, pay the relevant duties and charges to take delivery of the cargoes which are usually loaded into trucks and parked at the closed Atlas park a cost.

Okechukwu Ibeakor , a Lagos based agent , who has some clients at Cotonou port disclosed that the Beninoise agents took advantage that that they could not be allowed to clear goods in their country to rip them office. It was learnt that when it became obvious that there was no going back in implementing the Customs Internation transit cargo policy in actualisation of the One Stop Border Post, the Benioise agents and their Customs collaborators did everything within their powers to frustrate the plan on the allegations that most of the Nigerian agents are indebted to them for jobs done.  

It was learnt that for several days the representative of the  Seme based agents in  were shuttling between Nigeria and Republic of Benin to resolve areas of conflict to allow them take delivery of their trucks  from the Atlas park to the temporary site provided  for them by the NCS at the Border Community. It was said to have affected the February 1, 2019, deadline set for the  transfer of the truck laden transit cargoes to Nigeria as it was extended February 4, 2019.

A visitor to Seme Border Community which was a ghost of itself over the years because of low economic activities which were made worse last two years because of the ban on the importation of foreign rice and vehicles through the landborder  would be surprised at the turn- around of the area.   The closure of the Atlas park and the transfer of the Nigeria bound transit cargoes to the temporary site provided for by the Seme Command had turned the Community into a mini seaport for clearing  and exit of cargoes. While the Beninoise Customs officers and the agents may be having a rough time because the era of breaking Container seal is over as the two  countries Customs officials at the new Seme-Krake joint Border participate in the joint examination of transit cargoes and release to the agent’s  importer. The Value News learnt the transit cargoes are made to enter the examination bay  through the single entry route provided by the Economic  Community of West African states, ECWAS,. The agents , according to an officer could only take delivery of the transit Consignment  after the joint examination and given a clean bill which must go through the exit route to the temporary site for such cargoes.

Mu’azu Zuberu: Lagos State Commissioner of Police

When the Value News visited the site last week, it was a beehive of activities as agents process their documents to take delivery of their trucks. Officials of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents and other Associations of the agents at the Border who had their table at the site saw it as an opportunity to collect their dues for each truck released any member.

Unlike the delay encountered by agents in taking delivery of their cargoes at the port, an agent confirmed that it takes less than 24 hours to do so at the Border, noting that the only problem they have is to take the transit cargo to the Border. The agent disclosed that the Beninoise agents and their Customs Collaborators are still making things difficult for them at the port force their cargoes to enter demurrage to pay more for extension of time to keep their Container at the port. He noted that once the transit cargoes are transferred to Nigeria, the agent has no problem in taking delivery.

The good news that the loading and unloading of trucks which handled alone by the Beninoise at Atlas park  controlled by the Beninoise Customs  are now handled by Nigerians. It was gathered that in the last one week, scores of jobs have been provided at the trucks temporary parked for the teeming unemployed youths in the Badagry  axis as many businesses are spring up daily to take advantage of the booming business at the border.

The  Seme Customs Command may have done their to save  importer with their agents much troubles at the Seme-Krake Joint Border post to take delivery of their transit cargoes, Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, acting Inspector General of Police , IGP, has a big task at hand to reduce the number of police checkpoints along the lagos – Seme road  in the interest of trade facilitation.

Most of these police officers on the road claim to be from the Force Headquarters and the state Command but on investigation it was found that most of them were from the Badagry axis. Maritime analysts  fears that the gains that had been made by the Seme Customs Command would be a wasted effort if the importer with their agents continue to experience problem on the Nigerian which they were running away from in Republic of Benin.

Note that President Muhammadu Buhari had given a matching order to the Security agencies at the nation’s land Border posts to reduce their checkpoints. Garba, the Seme Customs Comptroller and Chairman, Inter agencies Security Committee at the Border was said to to have taken it upon the all the security agencies at the land Border post to comply with the directive. The NCS, Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, Border Patrol and Port Health were said to have complied with the Presidential order but the policemen are still finding it to comply because of the money they are making from transporters  and cargo owners on the road.

It was gathered that late in the evening , between Monday and Friday, every week, there over 15 police checks from different  police Divisions and Area Commands  along the Lagos-Seme road.

 Given the fact, that Mu’azu Zuberu, is the Lagos state Commissioner of police , he may have  to send monitoring teams along the Lagos-seme road to checkmate the  activities of the officers who mount illegal road block to lighten the burden of transports and agents who take delivery of their client’s cargoes at the land Border post.

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