By Gboyega Oni
The Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Benin jointly commissioned a new border post between the two countries situated at Seme in Nigeria and Krake in Benin recently. President Muhammadu Buhari and his counterpart from the Republic of Benin were at hand to perform the commissioning. They were ably assisted by government officials from both countries.
While we welcome the development, it is however long over-due because of the increasing rate of smuggling and criminal activities taking place between the two nations.
The Seme-Krake border post, according to information, is described as modern and technological in design different from the old post which was analogy and built several years back. Before the new post came into being, the economies of the two countries had suffered and badly hit by the high profile of smuggling activities which the old post could not curb.
Nigeria is the worst hit as the 90 percent of the smuggled goods land in the country. This has affected negatively various economic plans, particularly the local rice cultivation, which the Federal Government has put in place to revive the nation on the path of growth. Despite the ban on rice import through the land borders, smuggling of the item has continued to be on the rise.
Besides smuggling, cross-border crimes have become the order of the day because the porous nature of the old post. All manners of people – criminals could easily come into the country unchecked, perpetrate their nefarious crimes and cross back to Benin Republic and from there to their abodes in the region.
Two Nigerian states – Zamfara and Borno recently were the worst hit of cross-border criminal activities. In Zamfara, criminals in the name of cattle rustlers from neighbouring countries took over the state maimed and killed innocent citizens and stole cattle. The rag-tag soldiers recruited by Boko Haram to perpetrate heinous crime and killing of innocent Nigerians in the North East of the country are citizens of other nations – Niger and Chad. These people took advantage of our porous borders.
From the foregoing, the new post, technologically driven, is expected to boost and increase trade, curb smuggling and improve security. It will also strengthen the bilateral relations between Nigeria and Benin Republic with significant impact on other countries in the West Africa region.
As a matter of fact, the Nigeria Customs Service is better for the new post. For so long the Service was housed by the Customs of the Benin Republic; with the new post in place the Service would cease to be a tenant on a foreign land. It would provide office accommodations for officers and men of the Nigeria Customs to operate. Incessant harassment of ejection of the Nigeria Customs by the Benin Republic Customs from her land would stop henceforth.
While we are commending the two nations for the feat, particularly our country, we are calling and challenging our government to replicate the same feat between her borders with that of Niger, Chad and Cameroun. These countries are key and very important to the growth of our economy and our border posts with them are very porous and ancient in structure and facilities. This encourages smuggling and cross-border crimes. After Benin Republic, Niger Republic is the second biggest trading partner with Nigeria and we have a lot cultural affinity with the people of the country. There are a lot of cross-border business activities taking place between the two nations.
If our government can provide this technological-driven border post between her and Niger, Chad and Cameroun, it will reduce smuggling, stop revenue loss, generate employments and stop cross-border crimes. And, importantly, the ongoing war against Boko Haram by the Federal Government would be more effective and total as criminals would not have easy movement into and out of our country.