Nigeria is losing hundreds of billions of Naira annually as a result of about 70 illegal checkpoints mounted on the Lagos-Abidjan and Atan-idiroko corridors by the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), LEADERSHIP can exclusively reveal.
It was gathered that after the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) had removed illegal checkpoints on the Lagos-Abidjan and Atan-idiroko corridors, the Police mounted over 70 checkpoints on the trade corridors.
The multiple checkpoints are, however, threatening inter-border trade between Nigeria-Benin Republic and other West African countries on the two important trade routes.
Sources revealed that Nigeria could be losing hundreds of billions of Naira annually to the development at a critical time the country is exploring extra revenue windows.
LEADERSHIP reports that the Abidjan-Lagos transport corridor is the major east-west transport corridor in West Africa, connecting the capital cities of five countries (Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria). Travel along the corridor is recognised as critical to the socio-economic development of the region.
However, to maximise the potentials inherent in the trade corridors, the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, reduced Customs checkpoints on the two corridors.
The Customs CG said: “We want to enhance our national security, but we are going to do it with a fewer number of checkpoints; we are working with other security agencies to see how we can rationalise the checkpoints. This is to make life easier for business, so, I want to charge you all to make life and the work of our security agencies easier.”
While the Customs Service management approved only eight checkpoints on the two trade corridors, the Nigeria Police operates 70 while other security agencies such as Nigerian Army operates six; Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) operates eight; Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) with two.
However, maritime stakeholders have said that proliferation of Police checkpoints on the corridors will be a clog to the smooth running of the trade agreement among Nigeria, Benin Republic and other countries’ capitals.
According to trade experts, the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, should order his officers to dismantle illegal checkpoints as it serves as an albatross to trade.
They further argued that the checkpoints are capable of discouraging the country from effectively taking advantage of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement.
Also, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) noted that trade barriers not only disrupt seamless flow of goods but also pose a direct threat to regional integration endeavours.
The immediate-past executive secretary, Hon. Emmanuel Jime, said various studies conducted along the borders of West African nations had persistently highlighted the bottlenecks faced by traders, particularly in border crossings.
Jime stated that the trade barriers comprise transit checkpoints with unwarranted delays, extortion, illegal fees, and demands for bribes, saying ‘it has far-reaching consequences.’
Confirming the obstacles on Lagos -Abidjan corridor, the principal trade advisor, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, Justin Bayili, said delays occasioned by checkpoints were militating against trade facilitation.
Bayili stated that there is a need to create good conditions for trade facilitation in the region.
“Two months ago we took a trip from Mile 2 to Badagry and experienced 57 checkpoints. This delayed goods and thus made the goods costly for the business community,” he said.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP, the immediate past acting president, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Dr Kayode Farinto, said there should be a political will to end illegal checkpoints on border corridors in the country.
Farinto stated that since Customs, the designated agency for border protection, has reduced its checkpoints to the approved numbers, the Police should also follow suit in order to make trade across borders seamless.
“What we need to note is that we need the political will to let President Bola Tinubu know that in-view of the fact that Customs has removed illegal checkpoints on trade corridors, the Police are yet to comply and do same. All we need is people who can take the bull by the horn to make trade seamless.
“Customs has reduced their checkpoints to approved numbers, then why is it inevitable for Police to also follow suit? And if they refuse, there should be sanctions for that,” he stated.
On his part, the president-general of the National Association of Freight Forwarders and Consolidators (NAFFAC), Adeyinka Bakare, warned that Nigeria businesses may suffer major setbacks if government fails to resolve the bottlenecks on the movement of goods from all the entry points and international frontiers.
He said Nigerian goods and services have potential to compete favourably in the region.
Bakare expressed concern over the multiple checkpoints manned by security agencies and touts, noting that the illegalities would further affect foreign and local investment.
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He lamented that the association has engaged government at all levels in furtherance to tackling the illegalities along the Lagos Abidjan corridor.
According to him, there are only five checkpoints between Ghana and Benin, adding that Nigeria only has over 30 checkpoints manned by operatives of the government on the Lagos- Abidjan corridor, which he described as extortion of the highest order.
He further disclosed that trade barriers must be eliminated for the country to participate fully in AFCFTA, just as he called on the Tinubu administration to reduce the number of checkpoints along the routes to encourage international trade.
The NAFFAC boss explained that Nigeria stands a chance to benefit immensely in the exportation of her commodities to other countries of the continent if well harnessed.
“The issue of multiple checkpoints along the entry points is killing the business and it will affect the AFCFTA. The multiple checkpoints are not limited to the Lagos Abidjan corridor alone. It is common in the northern region of the country and the government is not doing anything about it,” he noted.
Effort to speak with the Force Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi, proved abortive, as text and Whatsapp messages sent to him were not replied at the time of filing this report yesterday.