Boni Yayi: A wolf in sheep’s clothing

By Bolaji Akinola

Benin Republic is a parasite, feeding fat on Nigeria. For emphasis, a parasite is any organism that lives and feeds off of another organism. At the death of the host organism, the parasite creeps out in search of another.

Benin Republic feeds off Nigeria’s nutrition and their uncanny President very much knows this hence his regular trips to Abuja to massage the ego of every sitting Nigerian President.

He visited Goodluck Jonathan every other month while he visited President Buhari for the 5th time in six months on Thursday 14th January. No Nigerian state governor has visited the President this much.

Boni Yayi’s government turns the blind eye while his countrymen wreak havoc on Nigeria’s economy through unbridled smuggling and several other economic crimes.

Benin Republic under Boni Yayi plays the spoiler role for Nigeria, taking advantage of our huge population at the detriment of our economy.

Under Boni Yayi, Cotonou Port became Nigeria’s biggest seaport. Yayi himself has described his country as Nigeria’s 37th state.

Chicken and rice – the most popular pairing in Nigerian cuisine – find their way into this country from Cotonou. More than 80% of these commodities are landed in the Port of Cotonou – a port facility purposely built so close to the Nigerian border at Seme – and smuggled with the active connivance with Benin Republic Customs and other agencies into Nigeria.

When Nigeria was collecting 20% tariff on imported vehicles, Benin Republic dropped its own to as low as 5%. The idea was to lure Nigerian importers to the francophone country to use Cotonou Port. The trick worked. As much as half of the vehicles used in Nigeria were imported through that country but the permutation took a turn for the worse when Nigeria in 2013 raised tariffs on imported vehicles to 70%. Nigeria immediately lost more than 80% of its vehicle cargoes to its unsympathetic neighbour.

The Nigeria Customs Service under its former Comptroller-General, Dikko Abdullahi, tried to stem this tide by entering into agreement with the Beninoise Customs. The agreement stipulated that every vehicle finding its way into Nigeria from Cotonou would be escorted by Benin Customs and handed over at the border post to Nigeria Customs officials. That way, the vehicles would be tracked to avoid being smuggled into the country and Nigeria would be able to charge and collect appropriate import duties on them. But the guys from Benin willingly bungled the agreement. It is not in their interest for such arrangement to work.

Everyday, you see thousands of Beninoise smuggle rice, frozen chicken and turkey into Nigeria. They smuggle these in bits and pieces on their heads, some on bicycles, tricycles and cars. Some daring big time use trucks and drive in late at night. Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh said recently that the kind of rice and other edibles coming into our country through Benin is not fit for consumption by even pigs.

Less than 20% of the chicken Nigerians eat come from Nigeria. The rest come from Cotonou port and sneaks over the border onto our shelves.

Tiny Benin Republic, with a total population that is about half of Lagos State imports as much rice as China and nearly as much frozen chicken as the whole of U.K. Its target is Nigeria with its huge burgeoning population.

Our automotive policy and rice importation policy have failed woefully and Benin is reaping bountifully. The tariff on imported rice was increased to 110 per cent to encourage Nigerians to farm and grow rice but ended up encouraging massive smuggling from neighbouring countries because they immediately crashed theirs to 10 per cent. The obnoxious rice policy is said to be leading to a daily loss of over N1billion to the Nigerian economy. Ditto the automotive policy and others. The policies are a curse to this nation.

Importers of rice and shipping lines no longer come to our ports. Rice was a major commodity at the Lagos Port Complex Apapa but the general cargo terminals have since dried up. The roll-on-roll-off terminals have also dried up. The ships that should come to our ports are all diverted to these neighbouring ports and the commodity is smuggled in bits and pieces into Nigeria while our customs officials look the other way.

As he enters into the twilight of his administration, Boni Yayi has done very well for his people but we must place on record that he is not a friend to Nigeria. He comes to the Villa as a friend but he is actually playing a role inimical to Nigeria’s economic well being. May we therefore never see another like him. Amen.

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