Some of the seized 50kg bags of rice at the Warehouse of Seme Customs Command shown to journalists by the Customs Area Controller, Seme Area Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, Comptroller Mohammed Uba, last week at Seme Border.
• Controller Accuses Benin Republic Customs Of Extortion, Violation of WCO
Congestion of in-bound cargoes has surfaced at the Seme border, Nigeria’s busiest boundary with Benin Republic.
Shipping Position Daily confirmed that the deluge of cargoes is attributable to the recent closure of the popular ‘Atlas Park’ where goods in transit to Nigeria are usually trans-loaded.
Sources told our correspondents that the scanners at the Customs command are not working and that the command is now conducting 100 percent examination on trucks.
The Customs cargo examination bay is completely congested, leading to long queue of trucks spilling to the access roads.
The Customs Area Controller in charge of Seme border; Comptroller Uba Muhammed Garuba however revealed that the Seme Customs has now opened its own park on the Nigerian side of the border.
Uba accused the Customs of Benin Republic of extorting Nigerians with the use of Atlas Park, even as he described the operation of the park as illegal.
He said the congestion is surfacing because the stakeholders are still adjusting themselves to the use of the new park.
He said, "In customs, we have an international law guiding the transit of goods from one country to another, goods transited from Benin to Nigeria are not meant for consumption in Benin Republic, they are meant for consumption in Nigeria, except if they are further transited to another country, such goods would not be subjected to full customs formalities, they should be handed over from one customs administration to another without charges"
"The usage of Atlas Park by Benin Customs Authorities has been an illegal activity because it violates international law; it is based on that premise that when we came onboard, we ensured that park is closed down in line with WCO guidelines"
He reiterated that all cargoes coming into Nigeria must now pass through the ECOWAS joint border post unlike the previous arrangement where goods meant for Nigeria are being trans-loaded and Nigerians are extorted.
He said that now at the new park opened by customs, "we generate revenue, duty is collected, security is being examined, for now the park is on temporary usage, subject to the approval of the customs high command"
According to him, the congestion at the command is expected because "when there is a new social order, the illegality being operated on the other side of the divide has been blocked, the old system no longer works, both the agents and the customs are now having a new task, coupled with the harmonization of the new joint border post"
"The congestion is normal for now, since the old system has been blocked, new procedures have to be involved and people are trying to contend with the new system, the park is a customs part, nobody charges anything, it is the private people that charge demurrage, nobody charges anything here, it is free for Nigerians, subject to the decision of the customs high command".