By Stephen Ubanna
Between tuesday April 2, , 2019 and Thursday, April 4, 2019, economic and social activities appears to have been grounded to a halt at the Seme-Krake joint Border . This is because of the overzealousness of some Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, personnel, and policemen stationed at the Economic Community of West African states , ECOWAS, approved exit route gate at the Border.
Muhammed Aliyu , a former Comptroller of the Command and now Comptroller of Federal Operations UNit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, was said to have laid the foundation for the trouble when he allowed officials of the two sister Agencies to be at the all important cargo exit gate on sentiment.
Signs that there would be trouble at the Border was said to have manifested on Tuesday April 2, 2019, when the NIS personnel and their Beninois counter parts could not agree on how to go about the implementation of the sub-region protocol: whether to follow due process in dealing with citizens of member countries or not.
Eyewitness account said there was bitter exchange of words both in English and French between o he Immigration the two countries sharing the Seme-Krake Border and also sharing the same office. The Immigration officials of the two countries were said to have made themselves a laughing stock before other security Agencies personnel at the Joint Border.
The Value News learnt that the matter came to a head when one of the truck drivers who had parked at a place that was said to be obstructive to free flow of vehicular movements. He was said to have with NIS pleaded with the officials of the two Agencies at the exit gate to be given time as he makes alternate arrangement on where to keep the truck. While the truck was making plans to remove the truck from the original location where it was parked, the police who had requested N500.00 as exit unreceipted fee insisted that the money must be paid to him.
The exchange of words between them may have provoked the policeman to beat mercilessly. he was said to have cleared the driver’s two legs from the ground as he fell forcing blood out of his mouth and ear. The information was said to filtered out to other truck drivers as they resolved to pay Nigeria back by refusing to work.
Many saw it as a bottled anger. The truck drivers and the Beninois Agent s were said to have been looking for such an opportunity to unleash their anger on Nigeria over the closure of Atlas park used in keeping transit cargoes in the past years.
A Seme based Agent told the Value News that the park was a cash-cow to the Republic of Benin government. The Agent disclosed that for each transit truck kept at the Atlas park, both ETLS trucks, the owner pays at 40 Cefas . Besides the revenue loss to the government, many people feeding from the park by being engaged as loaders and doing other odd jobs have also been thrown to the labour market which was a big problem to the country.
It was not surprising all the transit truck laden cargoes meant for the Nigeria market are released at a go to create congestion at the border as a way of forcing Hameed AlI, A retired Colonel and Comptroller General to have change of mind on the matter and reopen the Atlas park for business. the Seme Command Customs Comptroller, Garba, may have told them not worry as the Command would cope with the number of transit trucks released daily into Nigeria. A t the last count over 8,000 trucks laden cargoes were trapped at the Border. Some which had already entered the country but could not find space on the temporary truck parking site were parked on the side of the road with paid security men to watch over it.
I was therefore not very surprising when the beninois truck drivers and agents gathered at the exit gate to protest over the beating of one their colleagues by a Nigerian police man. It gathered that a seme bassed agent had take the truck drive and the policeman involved in the fracas to hospital.
The Agent, popular Basket, at the Border was to have handed over N10,000.00 to the policema to hold in case of emergency. The intervention of theCustoms Deputy Comptrollers Adahunson Rashid, who is incharge of the Command Enforcement Unit and B.M .Jibo, Revenue, Ekene Onyebuchi and other Seme based Agents may have saved the situation from degenerating into closure of the Border by the Beninois angry truck drivers.
Many believe that if Garba , the Command Customs Comptroller had not gone on vacation, the truck drivers may have found it easy to mobilise their members to block the Nigeria side of the Border to forestall the movement of trucks. This is because of his firm control on the security operatives activities at the joint Border as the Chairman of Inter Agencies Security Committee. Indeed, he knows how to reach out to their leaders and his counterparts in the Committee to forestall any trouble at the Border.
A truce may have been reached when the parties started to moving to the ECOWAS Conference room for a stakeholders dialogue to the problem, Efforts by The Value News to attend the meeting as a stakeholder was frustrated . A s at press time it could not be ascertained the decision that had be reached by the parties or whether the trucks are back to work. Effort to speak to Adahunson or Jibo, the two Deputy Comptrollers , who were said have brokered the peace at the gate where the truck divers had gathered to make the trouble did not materialise.
Another problem that confronted the Command within the week was While the Seme Command that disrupted the free flow of vehicular movement at the land Border was the conflict betwwen Ai rForce Personnel and Customs personnel at Gbaji Check point.
Prior to the trouble, there was only three Customs Check points at Gbaji. One of the Checkpoints belong to Seme Command , the second one to FOU, Zone A, Ikeja , . while the third team belong the Lagos Zonal Command Strike Force which was stationed far from both the Seme and FOU Teams. Mohammed Aliyu, the FOU, Zone A , Comptroller, may have created the additional two teams which were deployed to the Che Gbaji ckpoint, thus making it three teams .
Maritime waters believe that that he may have created the additional teams at the Gbaji Check to compound the problem of importers with their Agents and other Cross -Border traders. They also see it as an act of sabotage that would slow down trade facilitation as there is one smuggler’r route from Seme to Lagos , which is the Owode axis.
Note that on Wednesday, Nigeria Air Force personnel has sacked Customs personnel at the Gbaji Checkpoint over manhandling of one of their officers over alleged smuggling of rice.
okechukwu Ibeako, a Cross Border trader informed the Magazine that trouble started when an Air Force officer who was not on uniform was caught with some 50 Kg bags of foreign parboiled rice in the booth of his car coming from the Owode axis.
. An argument was said to have ensued between the officer and the Customs personnel at Gbaji. An overzealous , FOU, Zone A, officer who was not happy that a bloody civilian was arguing with a superior officer had slapped him , forcing him to attempt to disarm him. It was gathered that other officers joined to beat him up.
The Aliyu boys as they were called did not allow the normal Gbaji checkpoint officers to handle the situation but jumped at it.
They are Assistant Superintendents BC. Ndupu, D. J. Olu, CU. Nweke, R. Suleiman, AU. Edemba and GC. Onyeaju. Others are Inspectors of Customs : A. Abubakar, M. Aliyu, M. Bello and A. Mohammed,. Also in the team sent Gbaji to compliment the efforts of the regular officers at the Checkpoint are Assistant Inspectors of Customs : G. Echem and H. Aliyu, who were drawn from the Provost Unit. , Customs Assistants M. Ali, I. Isah, J. Bello and Uja’Afar were equally involved in the fight.
Eye witness account said the AirForce officer did not disclose his identity until the Customs personnel saw the AirForce reinforcement. The appearance of the heavily armed Air Force personnel at Gbaji sent a signal to the Customs personnel at the Checkpoint that the game is up. The officers were said to have temporarily dismantled the Customs Checkpoint thus providing a free for all smuggling within the hours of the crisis.
Adahunson, the Seme Command Deputy Comptroller, Enforcement may have known the implication of the AirForce personnel action at the Gbaji Checkpoint, that he was forced to take up the matter with Aliyu, the Command Comptroller to see what can be done to restore peace at the Checkpoint. A fragile peace may have been restored at the Checkpoint as the officers are back on the checkpoint but with their eyes wide open to avoid been taken unawares by the officers who are still poised for , according to security sources.
It was gathered that there have been pressures on the Command Area Comptroller to withdraw the 16 officers from the Gbaji Checkpoint to avoid creating another problem for the Service that might disrupt at the land Border
. As at today ( Thursday) Afternoon, Some Air force personnel were sighted at the ECOWAS building where they had a closed door meeting with Jibo, the Deputy Comptroller ,Revenue and other senior officers on the matter. Recall, that there had earlier been a meeting at the office of the Command’s Deputy Comptroller in-charge of Administration, comprising of Customs, Military and police personnel to resolve the conflict.