By Stephn Ubanna
Kazim Bisiriyu, a Seme Land Border Community between Nigeria and Benin Republic, agent is not a happy man. Bisiriyu source of unhappiness was informed by the fact that since President Muhammadu Buhari a retied Army general, reopened the land border areas across the country including Seme, after about 18 months of closure, amidst tight security to ensure that no Consignment enters or leaves the country, economic and social activities had remained on the low side at the border Community.
Bisiriyu who could not hide his feelings had told The Value News who engaged him in a chart under a tree opposite the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Seme Chapter, Secretariat that many of them only report at the border Community daily with ‘’the optimism that things would eventually improve’’.
He disclosed that their major worry of many is how’’ to convince their importers who had relocated to the Lagos ports of Apapa , Tin can Island, Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal Limited, KLT, ohases I&II, to take delivery of their cargoes to return to the Land Border Community to resume their transit cargoes importation.
He noted that many of the agents at the Seme Land border are involved in the clearing of vehicles which had been banned from being imported through the Land border by the Nigerian Pre. president , except through the country’s seaports. The ban on foreign rice importation through the Land border, was , however, extended to the country’s ports in June, 2021, thus giving the Interventionist Units much work to do to contain the smugglers operating between Benin, Niger and Central African country of Cameroon and Nigeria.
The central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, had stopped the opening of Form M, for rice importers on the orders of Hajia Zainab Ahmed, the minister of Finance, Budget and Nation al Planning who was acting on the instructions of the Nigerian President. Bisiriyu may have shocked Nigerians when he disclosed that all attentions have been shifted to Economic Community of West African States, Economic Trade Liberalisation Scheme, ETLS, goods and exports but lamented that not many of them have gotten any job at the ETLS or process the export of cargoes because the big agents who are well connected have taken over all the few jobs available.
He is right. All the big time agents who have contact with officials of Dangote cement Company, which is the major item being exported through the seme border , for now , that could be engaged to handle their export process at the Seme Land border.
The rumours initially making the rounds was that the struggle for the Leadership of the Association of the Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, by Lasisi Bisiriyu Fanu and Onyekachi Sule, described as the the two gladiators of the Association, was instrumental for the low economic activities at the land border Community which had kept most of the customs officers border and other security Operatives idle. But he answered in the affirmative that”the problem have been resolved and that the Association is now a united Force to work as a team to protect the interest of the agents.
He may have given The Magazine an insight on why economic activities appear to be on the low side at the land border to the exorbitant charges being slammed on Transit cargoes by the Benin Republic Customs Au and the Nigerian Customs Authorities, which the importers are finding it difficult to pay and settle make profit if the goods are pushed into the Nigerian market and still make profits.
The Leadership of ANLCA, Seme Chapter of ANLCA, were said to have met several times with the Benin Customs Authorities to reduce their Charges to encourage the importers whose Transit cargoes are trapped at the Autonomous port of Benin, Cotonou and Bollore port, in the neighbouring West African country to take delivery of it. The two parties were said to have met at the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, building on Tuesday, May 17, 2021, for the umpteenth time to resolve their differences . The Beninois Customs Authorities response been that the Nigerian Transit cargoes importers with their agents should be patients as the decision whether to reduce the Transit cargo Charges needs the approval of the country Lawmakers which had not be secured as at press time.
The Magazine south to speak to speak to Fanu , the ANALCA, Chairman, who was not at the Association Secretariat as at The time Magazine called on Thursday, May 20, 2021. A Lady agent had put a call through to him that he he has a Journalist waiting to speak with him from Lagos. He had asked the agent to take me to his office at Ashipa ,within the Seme axis, as the Customs Authorities , had demolished all the agents structure used as office at the border to do their work to erect permanent quarters for the officers which work is speeding up progressively under the supervision of Mohammed Bello Jibo, the Seme Command Area Comptroller. The agent had made request from the Reporter whether to wait for the ANLCA Chalca Seme Chapter Chairman at the Secretariat or in his Ashipa office as requested. We took the last option. On getting there, he was no where to be found, forcing us to return to the Secretariat.
Given that it was getting late , andThe Magazine Reporter was getting impatient to go, he suddenly drove in. An agent who had seen me at the Association Secretariat talking about my intention to see him, pointed at him .
A Reporterr’s delight, Fanu who could not hide his feelings confirmed that they have met several times with Benin Republic Customs Authorities on the issue of the exorbitant charges slammed on Transit cargoes but yet yet to get any response from them. He said the transit cargoes importers may not have come to terms with the new Clearing process at the land border which may have informed their indecision to resume importation through the Benin ports or any other port within the sub-region.
According to informed sources the Transit Cargoes importers are still used to the old arrangement where they could load two to the Container loads at the Seme ports into a truck and pay little duty to the Nigerian Customs. Under the new Clearing process, the government has made it clear that all containerized cargoes form third party countries must be handed over to the Nigerian Customs Personnel in its original form at the Land border, properly documented before the transit goods could be transferred into the truck and then ,taken to the importers’ warehouse.
The ANLCA, Seme Chapte Chairman, is optimistic that that eme Lander would bounce back to life. He noted that there is huge difference in what is happening at the Seme Land border Community at present compared to the situation some two months ago, stressing that it would continue to improve by the day.
Those who think that once the Beninnois Customs Authorities and the Nigerian Transit cargo importers with their theirs agents resolve their difference, they could arm twist Jibo, the Customs Area Comptroller at the Seme Land border may have to do a rethink. He was said to have made it clear at the different meetings with the agents that ‘’the right thing must be done to avoid running into trouble’’. The agents appear to have got the message as they have vowed to comply with the new Clearing process without cutting corners as was the case in the past.