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Goods in transit to Nigeria stranded at Aflao-Lomé border after Benin Rep closes border

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The Government of the Republic of Benin has closed its Seme Border with Nigeria, with the impact affecting about 3,500 trucks laden with transit goods worth several billions of naira destined to Nigeria stranded at the border post.

Trucks conveying goods from Ghana and Togo destined for Nigeria are not allowed to pass through the Republic of Benin border post.

Sources hinted that as a result of the closure of the border, which began on June 9, 2021, the queues of the trucks laden with Nigeria-bound transit cargo have trailed from Cotonou to Aflao-Lomé, a border town between Togo and Ghana.

The Benin authorities had initially claimed that the closure was to enable the government to investigate some of the activities of its Customs Service, a claim that has been faulted as it was discovered that the real reason for the closure was to avenge Nigeria’s border closure last year.

It was further gathered that before the closure, the Benin Government had imposed a new import duty payment of 9 million CFA, per every transit truck laden with Nigeria-bound goods, an equivalent of about N6.5 million, which ECOWAS protocols on transit goods, which are exempted from all forms of duty.

Trade experts, who reacted to the border closure for nearly two weeks now, described it as unjustifiable, insisting it violates all protocols of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on free trade, especially the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme ETLS.

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“There is no justification for this if the closure was on the basis of insecurity as a result of inflow of arms and ammunitions as was the case in Nigeria last year one could understand but that it is to help the government investigate Customs’ activities makes it flimsy and unjustifiable”, the expert argued.

National President of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Service (ANLCA),  Iju Tony Nwabunike, while confirming the development, described it as unfortunate.

“We woke to the sudden discovery that the Cotonou Customs stopped all trucks coming from Ghana or Togo to Nigeria from entering their country. No information was given to us only for us to hear from them that henceforth all Nigeria-bound trucks entering their country will have to pay the duty of 9 million CFA not minding whether they are on transit or not they don’t want to know.

“This is the situation we found ourselves. We are however reaching out to relevant agencies and stakeholders with a view to resolving the issues in the interest of some of our members that are affected and the overall interest of Nigeria’s economy”, Nwabunike also said.

Meanwhile, some officials at the ECOWAS, who also confirmed the incident, assured that the issues were being discussed at the highest level of diplomatic relations with a view to averting any trade impasse that might arise. (Business & Transport)

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