BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and its Benin Republic counterpart Monday lamented the regime of uncoordinated cargo transshipment charges and poor anti-smuggling administration along the corridor of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS); even as both customs administration agreed to address the challenge of multiple cargo taxes within the trans border route.
According to feelers from the meeting held yesterday during the visit of the NCS to Cotonou, led by the Customs Comptroller General, Bashir Wale Adeniyi MFR, both country also agreed to harmonize the import prohibition policy to ensure that whatever was banned in Nigeria will be effectively implemented by Benin Republic.
Speaking during the stakeholders meeting in Cotonou, Adeniyi outlined a number of blueprints and strategies to adopt to achieve the new commitment between both countries.
“On the measures to be taken to ensure a good relationship between the two countries, there is a need to promote the ECOWAS trade liberalisation scheme and the facilitation of the movement of goods and community products in particular.
“Ensure the removal of barriers and other obstacles to legitimate trade and the establishment of customs units when the traffic justifies it. Ensure strict compliance with transit rules and harmonisation of the list of products prohibited by the two countries”, adding:
“There should be rapid integration of Nigeria into the Interconnected System for the Management of Goods in Transit (SIGMAT) which already includes the Customs Administrations of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.”
The Nigerian Customs boss also pointed out the need for the two countries to agree to strengthen the fight against cross-border crime through intelligence sharing and financial cooperation; while hinting on the need for both countries to be holding meetings twice a year to discuss matters of common interest.
“There will be the reactivation of the joint committee for monitoring trade and transit relations.Also there will be a revival of consultation frameworks of border customs units with the active participation of the private sector.”
Adeniyi thanked his Beninese counterpart, Mr. Alain Hinkati , the Senior Minister in charge of Economy and Finance, Mr. Romuald Wadagni, Benin Republic President, Patrice Talon, and the people of Benin Republic for the warm welcome accorded him and his entourage.
Adeniyi and his entourage who later visited the Nigerian Ambassador to Benin Republic, Mr Olukayode Aluko informed the Nigerian Ambassador that effort is afoot to carry out a review of border agreement between the two countries.
Ambassador Aluko urged the CGC and his management team to take steps to ameliorate all tendencies that appears to constitute challenges in the cargo transit process for the enhancement of trade facilitation.
“Benin Republic is eager to do business with us and as such we need to direct our attention to having a conducive environment and ensuring the borders are opened on terms that are comparatively favourable. The ultimate goal is to have a Nigeria/Benin Joint Commission and we intend to achieve this by the end of the year,” he said.
The Director-General, Webb Fontaine, Mr. Anicet Houngbo, while welcoming the Nigeria Customs delegates, said that Benin Republic as a big transit hub could not have achieved it without the strong aid from Nigeria, noting further that the proximity of both countries has offered the company a great opportunity in the provision of interconnectivity.
The Comptroller General also visited the Port of Cotonou and the Ministry of Economy and Finance, where he had an interactive session with stakeholders. On the entourage of the CGC are DCGs including the ACG Headquarters, M. Jibo, Zone A Coordinator, ACG F. Okun and the Seme Border Customs Area Controller, D. Nnadi mni.