In a bid to ensure seamless trade between both countries, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the Customs administration in Benin Republic have agreed to establish a bilateral connectivity aimed at facilitating trade and.
But as both countries plan to forge closer trade ties, economic activity along the Lagos - Badagry expressway, a major road that leads to neighbouring Benin Republic and other West African countries, has been paralysed due to a failed section and illegal checkpoints on the road.
The road, which is also very important to residents along that corridor, is now riddled with potholes as transit between Agbara to Badagry that usually takes 30 to 35 minutes now takes four hours.
As at the time of filing this report, not less than 21 illegal checkpoints manned by men of the NCS, police are along that stretch. Also, numerous pot holes frustrate commercial activities along the road on a daily basis.
THISDAY observed that security personnel manning several checkpoints were issuing identification numbers to commercial vehicles after collecting N300 from each of them per day.
An officer with the Seme border Customs told THISDAY that the state of the road has affected the command's revenue generation drive. The officer who does not want his name in print said transit cargoes now go through Idiroko border instead of Seme border because of the bad road.
Meanwhile, speaking at a stakeholders' sensitisation workshop at the Seme border, Assistant Comptroller General of Customs in charge of ICT, Benjamin Aber, said the agreement between Nigeria and Benin customs, when fully implemented would address security challenges, prevent revenue losses and curb smuggling along the borders.
He explained that under the new system, declarations made for import transiting from either country will be electronically shared.
This, he said, would help create a win-win situation for both countries to achieve coordinated border management where the two Customs administration will use a single platform to handle trade transactions.
According to him, "It is not good for us in this modern time to be doing things manual when we have opportunity to leverage on technology that will assist us to streamline and harmonise processes that can seamlessly assist us in harvesting the opportunity of trade between these corridors.
"This is why we called the stakeholders that the Nigeria and Benin Customs have agreed to harmonise their business processes of temporary or transit import into Nigeria and export into Benin and to make sure that the process is done once.
"This means any truck that leaves Benin Republic, the information is already remotely sent in English to Nigeria Customs Service's system."
On the benefits of the bilateral connectivity, Aber said, "Henceforth, there will be single declaration to be used by both countries. The system is predictably transparent. It will deal with corrupt tendencies and ensures accurate revenue generation.
"Insecurity will be addressed as the new system will include the deployment of non-intrusive equipment such as scanners, which will help deal with the challenges of trans-border crimes including insurgencies. "The electronic platform will integrate the two countries single windows trade platforms and also improve the compliance to trade regulatory and fiscal policy measures of both countries.
"This platform will create effective, predictable and transparent risk management system and reduction in smuggling activities."
While urging stakeholders to ensure total compliance to achieve seamless trade transaction, he allayed fears that the system may be hacked.
On his part, the Director General of Benin Customs, Sacca Charles, affirmed his country's readiness to respect the terms of the agreement especially as it pertains to information sharing.
He said the moves for achieving the initiative began 15 years ago when leaders of both countries initiated it.
"This forum is about sharing and knowing responsibilities to improve our incomes as various economies. This is a model initiative that will draw attention to Krake/Seme.
"It will be an example for other Customs administrations to copy from. We should continue as partners in building better economies for our two countries, "Charles said.