By Wale Oni
The Federal Government of Nigeria will continually lose billions of Naira in accruable customs duty due to the parlous state of the Lagos-Badagry-Seme Express way.
A top customs agent, Dr. Emma Oparah stated this in an interview with PortNews in Lagos.
He also attributed the very low cargo trade in the Badagry-Seme Border Customs zone to government’s heavy taxes and severe devaluation of the Naira while describing the Lagos-Seme-Benin Republic expressway as the most dilapidated road linking two countries in Africa.
Oparah, once the Chairman of Seme Chapter of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) noted that the Federal Government had become unbelievable and inconsistent when it rubbished all the tenets of the ECOWAS Treaty by placing a ban on virtually every commercial product traded between Nigeria and other West African countries and which passed through the Seme border.
”It is the Nigerian Government that is the number one signatory to the ECOWAS Trade Treaties which essentially encourage free movement of goods between the countries of the sub-region. But it is the same Nigerian Government that placed a ban on all import and export goods thereby killing the last vestiges of any sort of relationship with these neighbours,” noted Oparah.
The ANLCA chieftain said Nigeria’s self destruct by over devaluing its Naira such that what used to exchange at a hundred Naira to a thousand CEFA now exchanges at N610 to 1000 CEFA. This, he said, had tilted the balance of trade in favour of the Beninoise but nonetheless discouraged import or export by either side.
Speaking further, Oparah rued the alleged petty ego tiff between the incumbent governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode and his immediate predecessor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola who is now the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, which has reportedly led to the abandonment of the reconstruction of the Lagos-Seme expressway.
According to Dr. Oparah, ”we were told that Governor Ambode proposed to the Federal Government to allow him to take over the repair of the road, but the Federal Ministry of Works said No. Even the so called ECOWAS-FG partnership has not worked. It is sad that ECOWAS were reluctant to release their counterpart funds for the road to Nigeria. We hear all this but don’t know which to believe.”
The erstwhile ANLCA Secretary General declared that because of the bad road many truck drivers had lost their lives in accidents, many importers had quit the routes while both licensed customs agents and the Customs had lost billions of Naira as potentially accruable revenues to the command.
Oparah was distraught by the Federal Government inability to solve what he called easily surmountable problems which bad roads and truck traffic gridlock represented. ”Who would have believed that roads leading to Apapa and Tin Can ports could collapse this much? Look at truck line up everywhere. This is a thing that can easily be solved, but not this government.”
Speaking in a similar vein, Seme Chapter Chairman of ANLCA Alhaji Lasisi Fano advised the Federal Government to lift the ban on importation of vehicles through the borders to stem a loss of much needed revenues running into billions of Naira monthly.
”The ban on vehicle importation through the border has made life very difficult for thousands of our members, even the customs find it difficult to meet target, they work extra hard, under very difficult situations to meet duty target. They could do better. For instance, sadly, a member dropped dead only yesterday, and why, stress and difficulties caused it,” explained Lasisi.
The Chairman wondered why the Federal Government could be so unconcerned about the parlous state of the Lagos-Seme road while, ironically, expects billions as generated customs duty from Seme Customs. ”It is as if Badagry zone is not part of Nigeria any more. The road is worse than a gutter and laden trucks fall there every day. A road that one should normally ply in thirty minutes now takes six hours. All efforts we made including advert in the media – radio, newspaper have not yielded any result. The government is unconcerned. But we will not give up. I will liaise with the ANLCA national and come up with another line of action,” lamented Lasisi.
In his reaction, the Public Relations Officer of Badagry Customs Command, Siadu told PortNews that the bad state of the road posed a great challenge to trade facilitation ”but nonetheless the Controller and his able team have been creative and resourceful enough to achieve set target in line with the vision of the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali.”