Customs: How EU Resolved A Major Conflict At Seme-Krake Joint Border

By Nwangwu ubah

The European Union, EU, and the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, appear to have resolved a major conflict between Nigeria and Republic of Benin over the carrying of arms   at the Seme-Krake Joint Border post. 

Investigation by The value News Magazine shows that over the years Nigeria Security Operatives  have been denied carrying guns into the ECOWAS area by their Beninois counterparts  . The situation was so bad that the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS,  and the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, officials were said to have protested to the relevant Authorities to intervene to save the situation from degenerating.Tthe Beninois security operatives were said to have intimidated their Nigerian counterparts insisting that the land where the ECOWAS  building as sited belong to their country and therefore, would decide how Nigerian security operatives would operate in the area in the conduct of their business.

until the Commissioning of the ECOWAS office Complex built with the financial support of the European Union,EU, at the Joint Border post last October, by President Muhammadu Buhari in his capacity as the Chairman of ECOWAS and Patrice Talon, his Beninois counterpart, the French speaking country security operatives had always intimidated their Nigerian counterparts at the Land Border post. 

The Commissioning of the ECOWAS building, a senior Customs officer confirmed  may have brought the Republic of Benin  security operatives to their senses that the Seme-Krake Joint Border belong to neither Republic of Benin  nor Nigeria, an indication that security operatives from both countries  are free to carry guns in the discharge of  their duties at the Border.

 The only caveat, according to the source is that no security operative from Nigeria side of the Border may be allowed to enter the Republic of Benin side of the Border with their weapons . In the same vein, no Beninois  security operative is also allowed to use gun on Nigeria side of the Border.

  The ECOWAS officials may have made matter easy for the  two countries that share boundary at the Seme-Krake Border  to have offices close to each other to facilitate the  effective implementation of the  One Spot Border Post  processing of Cross- Border travellers and import documents.

Recall that the Japanese International  Cooperation Agency,JICA, World Bank , ECOWAS and other development partners had organized a 2-day knowledge sharing workshop for West and Central African sub-regions at Accra, Ghana, last year on the one Spot Border post last year. 

 The workshop was a fallout of the ease of the Economic Integration policy in the East African countries of Ethiopia, kenya,Uganda, Tanzania, Buundi and Rwanda, which  operate one regional parliament, Customs Union  and use one Common language, kiswahili for business transactions.

Intercepted Vehicles From Smugglers At The Seme Command

There was the initial fear of JICA and the World Bank officials was that the One Spot Border Post will not  be effective in the West African sub-region, particular, because the Border posts that exist in the region alone. Take for instance, the Seme-Krake Joint Border post between Nigeria and Republic of Benin and  the Akanu /Nuepe  Border post between Ghana and Togo among others.

JICA  and the World Bank officials were said to have assured  Nigerians and Beninois government officials at the Workshop that if the policy could be adopted and implemented at the designated International Border posts Constructed by the EU and ECOWAS, in the sub-region, it would lead to cost minimisation, promotion of regional Integration, Cooperation and  Economic  development for the regions.

True to their believe about the positive effects of the One Stop Border Post,  Nigeria and Republic of Benin, Port Health, NIS, Customs and NDLEA including quarantine  officials from both countries are  already enjoying the benefits of the trade arrangement.

  This is evident going by what is happening at the Joint Border post as the Beninois Immigration, Customs , Port Health , will process cross Border documents from travellers  or goods coming into Nigeria and pass it to the relevant Nigerian agency to handle without delay.

Muhammed ubah Garba, Comptroller, NCS, Seme Command, who was at the Ghana One Spot Border post workshop confirmed, that it has enhanced security operatives Cooperation between the two countries.

 Garba, who is the Chairman of the Seme -Krake Joint Border post  and Charles Inusa Sacca Boco, Director General, Republic of Benin Customs Administration and the Vice Chairman are said to be working closely together to manage and maintain the ECOWAS facilities.

The officials of the Economic body, according to sources, are  expected to  take over the Management of the building in the next three years.  It was learnt the Joint Border Security Committee Executives have been in touch with  the ECOWAS officials and who are likely to visit the Administrative Complex this February. 

The Seme Customs Comptroller is optimistic that by the time One Spot Joint Border post, becomes fully operational with the enforcement on Customs International  Law on transit cargoes  to go through the single entry and exit route provided by the ECOWAS,  it  would improve the monthly revenue of the Command.

The revenue generation of the Command  may have been affected over the years because of the several illegal outlets used by Cross -Border  importers to take delivery of their transit cargoes without proper documentation.

Given an insider information, the Customs Comptroller disclosed that the Command  which had a revenue target  of over N8 billion to pay into the Federation Account last year , succeeded in paying  about 76 percent  of the target .  In the month of December alone, he  explained that the Command generated  N623.03 million. 

An elated Garba said the Command could achieve that much last year because of the ” unwavering resolve of the officers and men of the Command in its various operations which focused in maximising revenue collection, suppression of smuggling and facilitation of legitimate trade as proficiently reinforced across Lagos  –Abijan  corridor”.

He noted that the Command anti-smuggling Operations  produced impressive results. Given a further insight into the anti-smuggling Operations between November and December last year, he said they intercepted 6,753 50Kg bags, equivalent of 11 trucks load of foreign parboiled rice which were smuggled into the country through unapproved routes from Republic of Benin.

While conducting Journalists round the seizures made by the Command which include 22 exotic vehicles they were said to have been Toyota Coaster Van, Toyota Landcruiser, Prado Jeep, Mercedes Benz GLK350, Toyota Siena and Toyota 4runner. The DPV of the vehicles was put at about N177.3m. While the inspections were going on to show case the siezed items a patrol team on January 14, 2019 brought in additional three pickups load of rice . It could not be ascertained the quantity of foreign rice in each of the branded pickups. the seizures which were made in the bush were said to have been master-minded by one Superintendent of Isah, who led the operations.

The Customs Comptroller disclosed further that  the Command anti-smuggling officers dispossessed Cross- Border smugglers of   45 X25Kg  Jerry cans of vegetable oil, 71 litres of PMS popular ,petrol, with a DPV , of N106,000.00, 135 X 50Kg bags Sugar, with a DPV, of N567,000.00, 21 cartons of Tomatoes, DPV,127,575.00, and two sacks of used shoes with a DPV OF  N67,500.00.

This is in addition to 91 intercepted parcels of hard drugs/ Narcotics   which he confirmed had been handed over to the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, for further Investigation. The combination of the revenue generated by the Command in December , 2018 and and the DV, of the Contraband goods seized was put at about N1. 055 billion.

 T But what should gladden the heart of Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller, NCS, is that of the seven suspects prosecuted by the Command NDLEA last year, three of them were said to have been sentenced to different terms of imprisonment.  that One of the suspects , Difo Kenneth Cornelius, who was transferred to NDLEA , Seme Command, was said to have been given two years imprisonment.

He was said to have been imprisoned over unlawful possession of 7Kg of Canabis Sativa, popular India Hemp. The imprisonment of the India Hemp suspect is a warning to others involved in the Narcotic business that the game is up.

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