From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos
To realise trade facilitation and a reduced cross-border smuggling, which the Nigeria-Benin Republic interconnectivity trade platform is meant to achieve, the Comptroller General of Customs, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col Hameed Ali (rtd), has charged customs officials and importers/exporters of both countries to ensure honest declaration of cargo.
Ali, who spoke at the commissioning of the bilateral connectivity, which enables single electronic trade documentation at both ends of the land border, expressed fears that the new system, as inhibiting to smuggling as it is, would also make smugglers devise more sophisticated means of perpetrating their trade.
He warned that “this will bring an end to illicit trade and also, if we are not careful, be an avenue for smuggling, because the system cannot be falsified.”
Therefore, he charged customs administrations of both countries to block all entry and exit points along the border to check illegal trading, noting that if well implemented, the platform would end false cargo declaration and other forms of trade infractions common with manual operation. Ali stressed that “both the Benin and Nigeria Customs must heighten our fight against smuggling.
“We must block all entrances and exits against smuggling and that will help us to maximise the use of this technology. This is a very important connectivity in the sense that it is one means of ICT that will not only heighten facilitation of trade but also solve the problem of fake documentation within our border.
“For us, it is a unique development for the two brother-countries. Today’s momentous achievement is a vehicle for fast processing of trade. Therefore, may I implore you to give us maximum cooperation with your correct documentation. This system will weed out all false documentation; it will help to identify if what you have posted is right or wrong.”
For the trading partners, “if you want quick processing of your documents, you must ensure that they are true. We are expecting compliance, and we shall get compliance; where an individual decides not to comply, then the customs will ensure there is no illicit trafficking between the two countries.”
On their part, the Director-General of Benin Customs, Sacca Boco Charles, commended the coming to fruition of the platform, stating that a lot of time and effort had gone into aching the initiative.