Diplomatic row brews as Customs accuses Benin Republic of aiding smuggling of used vehicles into Nigeria

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has accused Benin Republic Customs of shunting due process in the clearance of Nigeria-bound transhipment goods, particularly used vehicles, passing through Cotonou Port.
Speaking in Seme last Thursday, Customs Area Controller (CAC), Seme Border Area Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Comptroller Abdu Salem Othman, said the refusal of the Beninoise Customs to hand over the documents of Nigeria-bound used vehicles shipped through Cotonou Port to officers of NCS at the point of entry in Seme, has resulted in the smuggling of such vehicles into Nigeria by the owners thus resulting in huge loss of revenue to the Nigerian government.
“From Cotonou, vehicles will be cleared to be escorted to the border because they are on transit but instead of the Benin Customs to hand over (the documents) to us, they don’t. Once they come to the border, they leave it to the discretion of the owners. We have written the headquarters on this issue even when the Comptroller General of Benin Customs visited the CGC here, the issue was discussed and a committee was set up but up till now nothing has been done on that”, Othman said.
He said the development poses a serious threat to Nigeria’s import duty revenue and aids smuggling.

It is estimated that over 400,000 units of used vehicles popularly known as tokunbo are smuggled into Nigeria through the land borders annually.
Othman also spoke on delays associated with the construction of the ECOWAS building meant to provide office facilities for NCS operatives at the border.
According to him, the non-completion of the ECOWAS building, the contract of which he said had been terminated and was yet to be re-awarded has forced the Command to temporarily relocate its officers to an unsuitable facility in the territory of Benin Republic.

In his words: “They provided us with temporary offices located inside Cotonou territory but officers find it difficult to operate there. There are certain people you have to examine but there are no provisions for that, even operating space is not enough. There is no security there because we cannot carry arms and weapons to protect our officers and many times, our offices are burgled.”
Members of the group which visited the CAC, the Customs Consultative Committee, while commending Othman for waging war against smuggling, advised the Command to create more awareness about its activities to further educate the border communities about the dangers of smuggling.

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