Licensed customs agents who operate in Seme-Badagry Customs command have been advised to relocate to Lagos ports pending the re-opening of the Nigerian-Benin borders recently shut down by the federal government of Nigeria.
Prince Olayiwola Shittu, immediate past President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), gave this advice while lending his support to the recent closure of Nigeria’s land borders with her West African neigbours, Benin and Niger Republics, as he described the closure as an acceptable norm deployed by modern nations in their bid to achieve national self discovery and advancement.
Reminded of the hard times customs agents who operate in Seme border and other affected borders across the country pass through since border closure, Prince Shittu noted that agents and freight forwarders are not restricted to operate at only the borders neither are they licensed to clear contraband. “Agents in Seme can come to Lagos port to work. They can educate their shippers to consign their goods to Lagos ports. And since a large number of people do come in from the East to buy goods in Lagos, why not direct your vessel or cargo to the Eastern ports,” he observed.
Shittu told PortNews exclusively in Lagos last week that, just as President Donald Trump of the United States blocked the US-Mexico borders to fend off a potentially socially damaging influx of drug-dealing latinos, Nigeria’s President Muhammedu Buhari has closed down Nigeria’s borders to curb shamefaced smuggling of rice and other contrabands and he has succeeded largely as Nigerians have now imbibed consumption of local rice with large rice plantations springing up across the country.
Shittu notes: “the border closure was primarily to curb smuggling so as to give the local industry including agriculture, especially rice plantations and their farmers the fillip to nurture and grow. We cannot just for the sake of African neighbourliness, allow people to come and dump unwanted and dangerous goods here. Benin republic is the largest importer of rice in Africa, for Nigerian market”.
“Closing the borders does not mean that we are stopping movement of peoples of West African across our borders. President Trump closed the US-Mexico borders to stop unrestricted latino immigrants some of whom he labeled as social misfits. Egypt has a law in place that allows Africans with good missions to visit Egypt and process their visa at the port of entry.
The Nigerian government has introduced that; all Africans can visit Nigeria visa free so long as they are purposeful. “There is no country in the world where you won’t find a Nigerian. So people should be welcomed here too” he stressed.
To stop this, in the sprint of ECOWAS, the Nigeria government has asked for an undertaking that only ETLS compliant goods will be allowed into Nigeria through the Customs, unstuffed. But the former ANLCA President noted with regret that, while the Nigerian President and his Ghanaian counterparts have signed the undertaking, the Benin President has refused to. “Beninoise are hostile to us in the border. If Benin must receive large shipments of cargo in Cotonou port, I advise, maybe they should transship them in smaller vessels to Lagos ports and other Nigerian ports,” he reasoned.
Prince Shittu thanked the federal government for introducing a joint military patrol around the borders, a development which had saved many customs officers from untimely death from smugglers. “Before now, many customs officers had been killed by smugglers, but not anymore with the government’s intervention with the military patrol,” he noted.