By Elizabeth Chukwuma
This is not best of times for Cocoanut dealers at the Badagry Cocoa nut market in Lagos, south west Nigeria and their Customers. This is because the activities of the Border drills security Operatives stationed along the Lagos –Seme road.
The Border Drills Operatives may have taken advantage of the government policy measure to close the border with the neighbouring countries of Republic of Benin, Niger, Tchad and the Central African country of Cameron as well as the ban on imports and exports of cargoes through the land border to intercept any item coming from the border axis including Cocoa nut.
The Border drills Operatives, according to sources do not believe that Nigerians could grow Cocoa nut in Commercial quantities in Badagry and its environs, , let alone have a sprawling market where traders from different parts of the country come on a daily basis with their trucks or Pickups to buy the item. They believe that Cocoanut found in Commercial quantity on Nigerian road are smuggled from the neighbouring Benin and Ghanna.
It is not surprising why they do not want see any trucks or pick ups carrying Cocoa nut on the Lagos –Seme road. Traders who have attempted in the recent time to patronise the Badagry Cocoa nut market would never forget their experience in a hurry. Their Consignment had been intercepted and transferred to the Border Drills Operational base at Ikeja Customs Training College.
The Magazine cited one of such Trucks loaded with Cocoa nut on the street beside the Federal Operations Operations Unit , FOU, Zone A, premises at Ikeja. This is the lot of one Mrs. Abigail Njoku, a lagos based Cocoa trader.
The Trader was said to have gone to the Badagry Cocoa market, which shares boundary with the Nigerian Navy, NN, and the Western Marine Customs Command out station, on Tuesday, October 29, 2019. She was said to have ran into the Border Drills at the notorious Agbara Checkpoint carrying 61 bags worth thousands of naira load in a truck. Only 10, out of the 61 bags was said to be her own, while Mrs. Favour Akor, another trader owns the remaining 51 backs found on the Truck.
It was learnt efforts by Mrs. Njoku to make the border drills Operatives security Operatives at the Agbara understand that the item was bought at Badagry Cocoa market proved aborted, as the Officers insisted that she must go to the Zonal Command office at Ikeja to prove her case over the commercial quantity bought.
As at Friday, November 1, 2019, the Consignment were still been detained including the driver of the Truck, who may have been held as a suspect to justify that that it was smuggled .
Perhaps, to prove that the Cocoa nut was not smuggled but legitimately bought at the Badagry Cocoa nut market, , she was said to have reached out to the market officials to come to her rescues in the hands of the Border Drills in order to save her market. Makami Emmanuel, one of the senior leaders overseeing the market and two other officials of the market were said to have been sent to Ikeja to meet the Border Drills security operatives.
The Magazine ran into him at the Border Drills Ikeja office. Emmanel, who was not happy that local traders are being treated as smugglers disclosed that this is sending a bad signal to people from other member countries of the Economic Community of West African states, ECOWAS, sub-region. He confirmed that the ibgo trader actually bought the Cocoa found on the detained truck by the Border Drill at the Badagry Cocoa nut market.
‘’We came to confirm to the Border Drill Operatives that the 61 bags of Cocoa nut found on the detained truck were not a smuggled in the market’’ but sold to her by the dealers who have shops in the market. The Badagy market officials were said to have armed themselves with the market relevant documents and photos requested by the Border Drills to prove that the Cocoa nut was actually bought at the Badary but that was how far they could go.
Efforts to reach out to Shuaibu, a Assistant Comptroller and a former Laagos Zonal Commander of the Comptroller General Strike Force In Lagos, now deployed to the Border Drills, through phone calls and visits proved abortive.
In spite of the fact, the Badagry Cocoa nut market officials provided all the documents demanded by the Border Drills Operatives, the team leader was said to have insisted on examining the truck to ensure that there was no Thai parboiled rice Concealment which he was obliged to do with his men. He was said to abandoned them and left for the Seme border to continue his work leaving the examination of the cargo to other officers.
The bad news was that many Cocoa nut traders have decided to keep away from the Badagry Cocoanut market for fear of loosing their cargo to the Border Drills operatives who were said to have abandoned their major task of checkmating the activities of cross-border rice smugglers to run after Cocoa nut and Pineaaple traders.’’ We have lost our Customers from Lagos and other part parts of the country’’, Emmanuel lamented.
Appealing to Babagaba Munguno, a retired Army Major General and National Security Adviser, NSA, overseeing the Border Drills and Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, to call their men on the Lagos- Seme road order, the Badagry Cocoa nut market official disclosed that it is the only way to save the market which had already been crippled over the last two months.
He disclosed that most of traders who patronise the market including the some Small and Medium scale Industries, SMEs , use the item to produce Cocoa nut Oil which are exported to other West and Central African countries. He further revealed that Bread Bakers, Hoteliers and restaurant operators who also buy large quantities of Cocoa to bake bread or prepare Cocoa rice for Customers are no longer finding it funny as they are scared of coming to the market because of the activities of the Border Drills Operatives on the road.
This is where Sanwo-Olu, the All progressive governor of Lagos state may have to intervene to save the market which is giving the sate millions of naira yearly revenue. Note that the Lagos state government may lose this source of income if the market is allowed to close down because of the activities of the Border Drills personnel on the road.