By Daniel Gumm
Facilitating theÂ smooth, efficient movement of goods and people across West Africa should be easy but for long delays, high bribes at checkpointst.
Trucks, cargoes and drivers that are properly documentedÂ should not be subjected to delays and bribes. Unfortunately, road harassment is the norm along major routes in West Africa.
Drivers are routinely asked for bribes and delayed until they pay, even when their cargoes are properly documented, their own papers are in order and their trucks are completely roadworthy.
Thus the on-going level of bribery and the many checkpoints by security agencies along the Mile 2- Badagry-Seme border axis have been described as a slight on the nation’s democracy.
It is because the activities of the various security agencies on the route is viewed as as posing a great challenge to the implementation of the ECOWAS protocol on free movement of goods and persons in West Africa to which Nigeria is signatory.
At a one-day workshop organised recently by the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja on the free movement policy and governance project (ECOGO), participants noted that the many bribery and illegal payments at border posts and inter-state road transit make manufactured exports less competitve in international markets.
Of particular interest was the number of checkpoints along the route which they put at about 53. The participants urged the Federal Government to ensure that the number of checkpoints are reduced to three, since according to them the act of illegal checkpoints and payments negate the ECOWAS free movement protocol.
The workshop, with the theme: ” Seme border must be free,” also noted that movements of people and goods along the Seme border – Badadry – Agbara – Mile 2 is impeded due to numerous checkpoints mounted by by a combination of different security and para-military agencies along the road.
The agencies were said to include Customs, Police, Immigration, Health Quarantine, NDLEA, and others which regularly extort money and other forms of grafts from travellers, motorists, and traders along the route. This situation was said to always prolong the 40 minutes trip to about four hours from Seme to Mile 2 in Lagos.
For drivers, harassment can be frustrating and cost them money; for exporters trying to compete in world markets, it ultimately means they are less likely to get the deals that could help the economy grow.
The worst case
At one checkpoint along the route, agents of uniformed services extort as much as N60,000 every day. Security agents at the same checkpoint were fingered for causing the worst delay a legal driver and his legally loaded truck for more than three hours.
Witrh the aim to facilitate the implementation of the protocol and related conventions on priority corridors of West Africa, the Commission, in a communique issued at the end of the workshop, recommends that the Federal Govermnent of Nigeria should in conjunction with relevant agencies arrest and prosecute officials of security agencies and touts extorting monnies and collecting bribes from motorists and travellers along the route while the number of checkpoints are reduced to three from the current figure of 53.