Nigerian-Benin JBP failed to fly after launch.
Nigerian-Benin JBP failed to fly after launch.
As ECOWAS Commission seeks fresh fund to erect ICT, wall
Contrary to expectations the Nigerian-Benin Joint Border Post, JBP, located at Seme-Krake has been unable to commence commercial activities and up bilateral trade integration along the Lagos-Abidjan corridor, despite its recent commissioning amid fanfare by the ECOWAS Commission, beneficiary member states, Nigeria and Republic of Benin and the project development partner, the European Union.
Findings indicate that the inability of the buffer zone to begin full swing operation was caused in part by missing components in the transport infrastructure, and non completion of critical base lines. Authoritative sources identified the missing links to include non availability of an ICT system, non closure of the old terminal which presents itself as an active competitor, full swing operation of beneficiary member states administrative structure at the old terminal amongst other factors.
Investigations further revealed that the terminal built at a cost estimated at over 17 Million Euro, sponsored by the European Union may have suffered finishing loose ends due to slack in the ability of the ECOWAS Commission secretariat to secure member states commitments and counterpart obligations towards the project’s completion time frame.
Our reporter gathered that the ECOWAS Commission saddled with the management of the project is presently seeking fresh fund to establish an ICT system for the transport infrastructure, jointly commissioned last month by the President of the ECOWAS Commission, H. E. Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, the Nigerian President, Mohammadu Buhari and his Republic of Benin counterpart, President Patrice Talon.
Responding to inquiry on the state of the terminal’s ICT and why the terminal was more or less inactive despite its commissioning, the Customs Area Controller, Nigeria Customs Service, Comptroller Mohammed Garba Uba said the facility was yet to be fitted with an ICT, assuring that the ECOWAS Commission was working on it.
“Our operatives for the ICT are on ground, but the system is not yet in place. This facility is powered by the European Union and managed by the ECOWAS Commission. I am aware that the ECOWAS Commission is working at installing the ICT and once that is done, the full benefit of customs operation will begin.”
“We expect to have increased volume of trade, but you also know that in everything new, few initial challenges do occur, we believe that we have achieved the beginning, as soon as everything takes proper shape, we will get the full benefits of this important project which is a programme of the ECOWAS Commission like I said earlier.”
Further checks revealed that the apparent state of inactivity at the terminal has to do with the reluctance of trucks and trailers drivers carrying goods to patronize the terminal in favour of the old informal park which remains fully active, with over 98percent of cargo traffic presently plying the old route. A senior government official at Seme who spoke to our reporter in confidence said the high traffic enjoyed by the informal route is a major hindrance, even as he informed that the ECOWAS Commission is seeking for fund to erect a wall to fence off the old park as only a mean of rechanneling human and cargo traffic through the new ultra-modern terminal.
He said, “Look over there, that’s all about the entire traffic flow of goods. That was the old route before the construction of this buffer zone, the trailer drivers still ply that route, in fact, it remains the major route to date. The ECOWAS plans to build a fence and once that is done, all the trailers and passenger vehicles will be forced to use this facility. They are looking for money to do the fence.
Another destabilizing factor is the unimaginable number of illegal checkpoints maintained by states security agencies at the old park, preoccupied with conducting official businesses of clearing and passing goods and passengers. Those sighted at the old route includes men of the Customs Service, Nigerian Immigration Service, Quarantine, Port Health, NAFDAC, SON, DSS, NDLEA.
Although scanty operations was noticed at the terminal, over 95percent of travelers, both immigrants and Nigerians were been attended to by officers of the Nigerian Immigration Service, which has three stop and search points within arm’s length of one another. Unofficial brisk businesses appear to pervade the entire atmosphere by operatives of some of the agencies; even as men of the Nigeria Immigration Service mounted guard at the terminal’s gate in disregard of the normal protocol in a Customs Border Post; a development described as a ploy to further exploit travelers.
During the recent commissioning of the JBP, President Muhammadu Buhari said it is intended to ameliorate the hardship being experienced by border post users and usher in increased business opportunities; as well as raise the bond of cultural, social and economic friendship between Nigeria and Benin, and by extension the diplomatic and bilateral relationship of other member states of the ECOWAS.