BY GBOGBOWA GBOWA
Despite concerns that the multiplicity of security checkpoints along the Lagos Mile 2-Badagry-Seme Expressway has continued to create unfavourable trade atmosphere between Nigeria and her neighbouring Benin Republic, the illegal checkpoints appears to be growing in size, defying all strategies by Abuja to promote an improved environment and culture that gives credence to trade facilitation and smooth movement of people.
In recent time, whereas various reports have indicated that the cold economic policy war between Nigeria and Benin stemmed largely from costs differentials tied to various trade components, one of such components has been about un-receipted costs paid by Beninese to the long chain of security checkpoints along the corridor.
In retaliation, Port Novo also slams exorbitant fees and charges on transit cargo bond for Nigeria through Cotonou, and which the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu government has expressed the desire to address clinically and purposefully.
The activities of the illegal checkpoints has reportedly led to all manners of disruptions to movements of goods and people, and believed to have also hindered trade facilitation; apart from the negative image such actions exposes the country before the regional , continental and international community.
In August, following a meeting and memorandum of understanding between the leadership of the Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigerian Police to dismantle the illegal security checkpoints and return sanity to the Lagos-Abidjan Corridor.
It will be recalled that during the CGC’s courtesy visit to the IGP at the Force Headquarters, the two leaders among other issues discussed the menace of the proliferation of checkpoints along the Lagos Mile 2-Badagry-Seme Border axis; during which time they appealed to the management of all security agencies operating within the axis to look into the possibility of rationalizing the checkpoints.
True to his pledge, the IGP Squad chased and arrested some police officers and other security agents found at some of the checkpoints, believed to have been created for extortion purposes. Stakeholders had commended the Comptroller General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi MFR and the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun for the swift action.
Barely ten days after and in complete defiance of the IGP and police authority’s efforts to rid the axis of undue heavy illegal checkpoints by personnel of the police, military and other security agencies, the illegal check points returned full force.
Although Pinnacle Time reported at the time based on insider’s information that the raid would be sustained until the bad eggs within the respective agencies responsible for the blight are completely removed through sanctions and punishments; it would appear that the Nigeria factor may have defeated the earlier show of understanding.
As at yesterday, Tuesday September 2023, bellow are 53 checkpoints between Badagry Roundabout and Seme-Krake, in which almost all special agencies are represented; despite that the resident Customs Area Command says it operates only three checkpoints and a complement of patrol activities based on intelligence.
J5 – NPF Seme Command; Catholic – Seme Command; NPF-Police Station-Seme Command; Ashipa – Immigration; Totha – Mopol Border Patrol; Totha – Custom on Visit; Seaview – NPF Seme Command; Igbegbomeh – Border Patrol; Gbethromeh – Military; Gbethromeh – Border Patrol; Boglo – Border Patrol; Falola – NPF Seme Command; Akoro – Custom on Visit; Akoro – Border Patrol’ Bolinthon..NPF Seme Command; Suntan – Border Patrol; Suntan – Custom Seme; Suntan Police Post-Seme Command; Second Malu Asakpo- Border Patrol; Mohagafar – Custom; Yard – Civil Defence.
Others are Yard – Immigration; Yard – Military; Yard – Custom; Gberefu Junction – Border Patrol; Hokedaho – Police NPF; Hokedaho – IGP Police; B/4 Small Bridge – Military; After Small Bridge – Border Patrol; After Small Bridge – Custom – Anti Fly; After Small Bridge – Immigration; Owode Apa U Turn – Quarantine; Owode Apa U Turn – Porth Health; After Owode U Turn – Road Safety; Gbaji Junction – NPF Seme Command; Gbaji Junction (2) – Border Patrol; Gbaji Junction (3) Immigration; Gbaji Junction (4)-Police IGP & Police; Gbaji Yeketome – NDLEA; Gbaji U Turn – Custom; Gbaji U Turn (2) – Quarantine; Gbaji Dawn – NPF Seme Command; Gbaji Up – Custom; Gbaji Up – Joint Team; Gbaji Bridge Slop – Military; Oloko (1) – NPF Badagry Command; Oloko (2) – Custom; NPF – Area K Command; NPF-Seme Command.
The checkpoints include those at NNPC – FSWAT Police; NIPCO F – Police Station; Muzainah Filling Station – Civil Defence; and Ajara Topa Small Bridge U Turn – Police.
While the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has the least presence, it is followed by the IGP Team, Pinnacle Time reports that the customs irrespective of jurisdiction obeyed the checkmate and raid by the IGP Squad early August, the situation has lately reverted to normal; probably making the axis one with the greatest numbers of checkpoint on the face of the earth.
Upon assumption of duty as the Seme Customs Area Controller a week ago, Comptroller Timi Bomodi said that the Nigeria and Benin customs administration recently met to chart a roadmap on ways to improve on trade facilitation, in which the issue of multiple checkpoints was also raised.
He explained that both countries have committed to attaining seamless operations by aligning fiscal policies and are contemplating creating windows for respective Customs operatives to extend their activities to each other’s ports and borders.
Bomodi stressed that facilitation of legitimate trade will be the thrust of the command under his leadership, adding that this will naturally enhance revenue generation and curb smuggling.
“The border community dwellers are critical stakeholders, from the obas, chiefs and ordinary citizens, and we will ensure that the needs of everyone will be met.”