As ECOWAS Commission seeks fresh funds for ICT,
By Eguono Odjegba
Despite spending over 17 million Euro on the construction of the Nigerian-Benin Joint Border Post, JBP, at Seme-Krake, the European Union supported transport terminal has continued to function sub-optimally owing to lack of basic infrastructure components and poor finishing.
This is even as Vanguard Maritime Report gathered that the ECOWAS Commission saddled with the management of the project is presently seeking fresh fund to establish an ICT system for the transport infrastructure, jointly commissioned last month by the President of the ECOWAS Commission, H. E. Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, the Nigerian President, Mohammadu Buhari and his Republic of Benin counterpart, President Patrice Talon.
Responding to inquiry on the state of the terminal’s ICT and why the terminal was more or less inactive despite its commissioning, the Customs Area Controller, Nigeria Customs Service, Comptroller Mohammed Garba Uba, said the facility was yet to be fitted with an ICT, assuring that the ECOWAS Commission was working on it.
“Our operatives for the ICT are on ground, but the system is not yet in place. This facility is powered by the European Union and managed by the ECOWAS Commission. I am aware that the ECOWAS Commission is working at installing the ICT and once that is done, the full benefit of Customs operation will begin.
“We expect to havae increased volume of trade, but you also know that in everything new, few initial challenges do occur, we believe that we have achieved the beginning, as soon as everything takes proper shape, we will get the full benefits of this important project which is a programme of the ECOWAS Commission like I said earlier.”
However, Vanguard Maritime Report also gathered that the apparent state of inactivity at the terminal has to do with the reluctance of trucks and trailer drivers carrying goods to patronize the terminal in favour of the old informal bush path, which remains fully active, with over 98percent of goods traffic still caught through the old route.
A senior government official at Seme who drew our reporter’s attention to the high traffic enjoyed by the informal route informed that the ECOWAS Commission is seeking for fund to erect a wall to fence off the old route.
He stated: “Look over there, that’s all about the entire traffic flow of goods. That was the old route before the construction of this buffer zone, the trailer drivers still ply that route; In fact, it remains the major route to date.
“The ECOWAS plans to build a fence and once that is done, all the trailers and passenger vehicles will be forced to use this facility. They are looking for money to do the fence.
Our reporter observed that the entire security contingents from both countries are still fully on ground at the old route, carrying out official transaction, clearing and passing goods and passengers. Those sighted at the old route includes men of the Customs Service, Nigerian Immigration Service, Quarantine, Port Health, NAFDAC, SON, DSS, NDLEA.
Although scanty operations was noticed at the terminal, over 95percent of travelers, both immigrants and Nigerians were attended to by officers of the Nigerian Immigration Service, which has three stop and search points close to one another.
It is also brisk business as usually by smugglers at the major trans-border axis, with official cover from security agencies who must have compromised their responsibility.
During the recent commissioning of the JBP, President Muhammadu Buhari said it is intended to ameliorate the hardship being experienced by border post users and usher in increased business opportunities; as well as raise the bond of cultural, social and economic friendship between Nigeria and Benin, and by extension the diplomatic and bilateral relationship of other member states of the ECOWAS.