The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has decried a new policy by the government of Benin Republic, which imposed import duty on Nigeria-bound cargoes transiting through the country to Nigeria.
As a result of the policy, no fewer than 3,700 Nigeria- bound trucks from Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo with transit goods worth several billions of naira have been trapped at Ilakoji- the border between Togo and the Benin Republic for over four months.
Speaking while fielding questions from journalists at Seme on Tuesday, Controller Seme Area Command, NCS, Comptroller Muhammed Jibo, explained that the policy by the Benin Republic government is against the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocols and international transit agreements.
He lamented the insistence of the Benin Republic Customs to collect duty on the transit goods without a formal circular to the Nigeria Customs Service.
He stated that the development has affected the command’s revenue collection as goods worth billions of naira are still stranded within the Benin Republic borders.
“The Command began the activities of the year, 2021 with focus on the main objectives of revenue collection and facilitation of legitimate trade. However, the Benin Republic economic policies affected the revenue drive of the command as all goods transiting through Benin were mandated to pay some duties and levies by the government of Benin Republic which is contrary to ECOWAS protocols and international transit agreements.
“What we know as Customs officers is that transit agreement and ECOWAS protocol does not allow goods transiting through a country for any duty to be paid on such goods. Duties are supposed to be paid in the country of destination. Up till today, the Benin Republic has not formally written to us that our importers must pay such duties if they are transiting through their country.
“Since we have not received any formal letter from them, I cannot say this is the reason why they are imposing such charges on our imports passing through their country.
“When our business community called to inform me that their trucks are stuck in Benin Republic that they had to pay some charges before they could cross, immediately, I contacted my colleague from Benin Republic asking for the reason for that but unfortunately, he said he was only called to do what their country wants him to do.
“We demanded for a formal letter that directs them to collect charges on transit goods but up till today, they have not given us.
“I have written to the headquarters to inform them of the situation. We met with the ambassador and fortunately for us, the first assignment of the present ambassador, Major Gen.Tukur Burutai (rtd) was to have a meeting with us and to hear from us the situation report. I believe the appropriate authorities are handling that now because it is not an issue of Customs only. This concerns the whole of ECOWAS country, but we are assured that we will take it up,” he said.