By Stephen Ubanna
In spite of the initial hope that with the reopening of the 18 month-old closed Seme border, described as the busiest in the African Continent and other borders across the country with the neighboring countries of Benin Republic, Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon, the optimism appears to have died down.
This is because trading business nothing is actually working out at the Seme border Community. Signs that nothing is working out the lander is evident going by the large number of the old trucks, laddened with transit goods which had been trapped at Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, border Community which are covered with tarpaulin.
Initially , Hameed Ali , a retired army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, had given the transit cargo importers with their agents hope that the trucks would be released by setting up a Committee to handle the clearing and delivery process process a with the support of the of Mohammed Yusuf Jibo, the Seme Command Area Comptroller and his officers but that was how far he could go.
This may be telling on the transit cargo importers using the Autonomous port of Benin , Cotonou and Bollore port to take delivery of their cargoes to lie low for now. Many of them were said to have resorted to the importation of the Asian countries of Thailand, Par boiled rice and the Indian Barsmati and Agricultural rice, including the North American country of Vietenam Par boiled rice, which are smuggled into the Nigerian market through various illegal routes in the north and southern part of the country.
The Federal Operations units, FOUs, across the country and other ad-hoc Interventionist units, may have intercepted and seized thousands of bags of foreign rice, of 50Kg each, from the south east, south west, south-south, north central and the north west but that had not smugglers from carrying out their nefarious trade.
The Value News visit to Seme border Community, on Thursday , April 29. 2021, showed that the Seme border Community remain a shadow of itself, without few transporters keeping the Lagos-Seme, which remain a death trap, busy. The Customs Authorities may have even sent a message to the people that economic activities at the border Community are its lowest ebb as the gate of the Customs Truck site was opened to public glare to show that nothing was happening .
An agent who spoke to the Magazine lamented that many of them have been thrown out of business. The agent disclosed that he was forced to relocate back to the ,order Community to resume business with his Staff when the lander was opened last January but they were disappointed as the environment still looked dull for any business to thrive. He stated that both the agents, and the security agencies personnel, particular, the Customs personnel, who have to be in their offices daily are no longer finding it funny, particular, the rank and files.
An officer who spoke to the Magazine on condition of anonymity disclosed that the situation at the Baggage at the ECOWAS, Trade Liberalisation Services, ETLS, look more worrisome. The source disclosed that though the ETLS, and Enforcement officers of the Seme Command may be seen to be very busy because of one or two ELS truck that enters daily or weekly for examination.
Another officer who spoke to The Magazine disclosed that the Land borders across the country with the neighboring West and Central African countries may have been reopened to satisfy the wishes and aspirations of the economic giant, Aliko Dangote, to export Cement to Benin, Togo, Ghana, Niger and other countries in the west and Central African economic bloc.
It is not surprising why the Deputy Comptroller, in-charge of the Seme Command Export Seat and his officers , appear to be very busy on a daily basis, because of the number of Dangote Trucks laden with Cement that line up at the land border Community , awaiting to be give given the green light to pass .
A resident of Badagry town told The Magazine that scores of Dangote Trucks loaded with cement pile up daily along the Badagry – Seme Express way daily heading to the west coast market, which it had lost because of the 18-moths border closure.
Recall that prior to the reopening of the Land borders, across the country, Dangote, President of the Dangote Group of Companies, and Abdul Samad, Chairman, BUA, Group, were said to have used their contact in the Presidency to win the heart of President Muhammadu Buhari , a retired army General who gave their Companies the approval to export their manufactured Cement to Niger and Togo, where it was in high demand.
Dangote Cement Company is a publicly quoted Company, according to informed sources and which complies with the Security and Exchange omission , SEC, full disclosure clauses and regularly update their transactions . The Company was said to be crossing Illela Land border in Sokoto state and Ohumbe border in Ogun state to export their product.
It was therefore not very surprising that the officials of the Dangote Cement Company saw the reopening of the country’s Land borders with the neighbouring countries as an opportunity to export their product without further restraint through the Seme border.
At present, Dangote the African richest man Nigeria Cement , are exported, mostly through Seme, Illela and Ohumbe Land borders is currently in 11 African countries, particular, the West Coast, using its ETLS, Trucks, deliver to dealers. The source disclosed that the Dangote Cement Company has operational facilities in Cameroon, Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Senegal, Togo Sierra Leone, South Africa, Zambia and Tanzania.
Funny enough, the Customs Authorities at the Seme Land border were looking forward to other approved ELS, Companies in Nigeria, to join the Dangote Cement Company in the west coast export market, but the Companies still remain to be reluctant to do so , thus ,making the coast clear for the Dangote Cement.
There are over 2,400 registered ETLS , Companies in Nigeria, and9 of the 6,900 products that are manufactured by the ETLS Companies, within the West African subregion, about 70% of it are manufactured in Nigeria while the remaining are manufactured in other African countries.
This may have informed why the Seme Land border Export Seat officers had expected the ETLS Companies to take advantage of the reopened land border to flood the Command Export Seat with exportable goods. Between January and March 2021, Jibo the Command Area Comptroller disclosed that they recorded a trade volume of 378,827,775 metric tons of exported goods, mostly, cement, from Dangote Cement Company, with a free on board, FOB, value of about N4.3 billion and the NESS value of about N21.4 million, which was said to have been realised and paid into the Federation Account.