The Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Colonel Hamid Alli (Rtd) has stated that 70 Customs officers lost their lives while battling to intercept smugglers across Nigeria, Benin Republic border towns of Idi Iroko and Seme.
The Customs CG disclosed this on Thursday during a meeting with the Charge-De-Affairs of Nigeria’s embassy in Benin Republic, Madam Beatrice and Customs officer’s of Benin Republic in Cotonou.
The Customs CG in his opening remark emphasised the fact that borders are imaginary as far as the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) is concerned, and that Customs administrations must honestly work hard, to ensure that trade between peoples are without unnecessary hindrances.
He lamented the loss of seventy officers while combating smuggling within Idi Iroko and Seme areas, and that the biggest problem confronting Nigeria Customs service till date is the lack of compliance on the part of traders, who make dishonest declarations.
Colonel Alli reiterated the need to review existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Nigeria and Benin Republic, with a view to bringing them in conformity with internationally accepted standards in trade between countries.
He emphasised that both countries must address issues of dumping and smuggling across borders, especially that of the commonly traded items like rice, vehicles, etc and find solutions to the numerous complaints made to the embassy.
Colonel Hameed Ali warned stakeholders to desist from unwholesome practices that impede trade facilitation across international borders. He advised that everybody involved in the business of trading across West African countries must read the ETLS (Ecowas Goods) protocol and understand the laws as it affects their trade.
Speaking at the meeting, the National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Olayiwola Shittu drew the attention of the CGC to the expensive nature of doing business across the Benin-Nigeria border.
In his words: “Cost of transiting ETLS from Ghana to Lagos needs to be checked, to provide room for trade facilitation and trade competitions within the West African sub region. That is, a truck of ETLS cargo from Ghana pays 300,000CFA to exit Ghana into Togo and pays 400,000CFA to exit Togo into Benin Republic.
“The same truck will be charged 2,800,000CFA to exit Benin Republic into Nigeria, for reasons best known to Benin Republic Customs.”
Drawing the CGC’s attention to the real trade de-facilitators across the borders, Prince Shittu said the multiplicity of security agencies are further aggravating the expenses incurred in transiting cargoes across the borders, demanding a review of these agencies drastically downwards.
In her welcome address, Nigeria’s Charge-De Affairs to Benin Republic, Madam Beatrice welcomed the CGC and his team to the embassy and said that the purpose of the interactive session was to seek ways and means of ironing out the numerous problems affecting the free flow of trade between Benin Republic and Nigeria.
She said the embassy has been bombarded with series of complains by traders/stakeholders and she hoped that with the presence of the CGC, a lasting solution would be found.
Chief Alaba Lawson-Chairperson of NACCIMA, Ogun State branch wondered how rice gets into Nigeria massively, despite its ban through land borders, urging Customs to do more to curtail the trend or find a way to accommodate it, in order to generate revenue for the government.
She requested that the address presented by the national president of ANLCA be adopted as a working paper because it captures the essence of stakeholders complains.