An importer and frontline freight forwarder, Chief Eddy Akwaeze has taken a swipe at the Controller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali over reported plans to shut Seme Border in Lagos as recently announced by the customs chief.
Akwaeze who described the idea as absurd and one that will worsen the nation’s economic challenges, advised the customs chief to seek advise on more proactive and modern management technique that wont inhibit trade but will achieve prevention of smuggling.
According to the former chieftain of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), rather than beam all attention on borders in the South West region of the country, Ali should ensure total watch on all the borders as he alleged likelihood of high level smuggling of trade goods and outright prohibited items into the country through the vast and poorly manned land borders in the north.
”Shutting Seme will not solve any problem, it will rather create chains of problems like increase in smuggling, robberies and many other criminal activities. There is nowhere in the world where smuggling is completely eradicated. I think the Controller General of Customs should be educated on this”
”It is an anti economic vice and trade malpractice that the customs and other sister agencies of government must keep fighting. Rather than advocate closure of the border, Col. Ali should advise government on ensuring a more competitive port system while reviewing import and export policies , particularly in the areas of tariff” he said.
He said ”Over N10b investments and more than 25,000 direct and ancilliary jobs will be threatened and destroyed if this backward policy is done without consultation and recourse to due process”
Akwaeze added that ”Seme Border plays host to a beehive of legitimate businesses with higher revenue for government than almost all the northern borders put together. It promotes regional integration under the aegis of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and I dare to say that if there are borders to be closed, it should be the ones in the north”
Ali had in September in Lagos canvassed for total closure of Seme Border at forum put together by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria(MAN) where he said the service is mooting the idea due to high incident of smuggling.
Ali who made the suggestion during the 2017 Annual General Meeting of the MAN in Lagos recalled that the closure of the border was done in 2013 during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo when the spate of cross-border crimes such as smuggling, armed robbery and human trafficking, became unbearable.
He said it might be necessary to close the border because the NCS was finding it increasingly challenging to man the area due to the wiles of smugglers and the impact their activities was having on the economy and the growth of local industries.