Saturday, December 21, 2019 3:51 pm
By Femi Falana
Following incessant trans border crimes including armed robberies and smuggling of vehicles from Nigeria to Benin Republic in 2003, the Olusegun Obasanjo administration closed the land border between Nigeria and Benin Republic for about a week. Before the border closure the federal government had investigated and confirmed that one Mr. Ahmadu Tijanni, a highly influential citizen of Niger Republic based in Cotonue, Benin Republic was the mastermind of the trans border criminal activities. Even though he was a sacred cow in Benin Republic Mr. Tijanni was arrested by a team of the Nigeria Police Force which invaded Cotonou during the border closure.
The criminal suspect was handcuffed and brought to Nigeria to face justice. Even though he sued Nigeria at the Court of Justice of the Ecowas at Abuja, the case was dismissed on technical grounds. Tidjani was tried, convicted and jailed for armed robbery by the Ogun State High Court. Thereafter, the Lagos state government charged Mr. Tijanni with armed robbery in the Lagos High Court. He was standing trial when he died of stroke in custody at the Kirikiri prison.
In August this year, the border between Nigeria and Cotonue has been closed down due to the smuggling of rice and other goods from Benin Republic to Nigeria. The border has remained closed as the authorities in Benin Republic have not met the conditions laid down by Nigeria. It is however embarassing to note that the Buhari administration has failed to address the root cause of the smuggling of goods from Benin Republic to Nigeria. Since President Patrice Talon of Benin Republic awarded the contract for
the management of the Port of Cotonue
to his own private company, called Benin Control, smuggling of goods from Benin to Nigeria has been on the increase.
As if that is not enough, the company has been empowered to take over the statutory duties and responsibilities of the Customs Administration of Benin Republic. In other words, the Customs Service in Benin Republic is under the control snd supervision of Benin Control. On account of such apparent conflict of interests, the Talon administration has refused to halt the smuggling of goods from Benin Republic to Nigeria.
In view of the fact that the Customs Service in Benin Republic is hampered from collaborating with its Nigerian counterpart to stop the smuggling of goods from Benin Republic to Nigeria, ECOWAS ought to sanction President Talon for using his private company to frustrate the control of trans border crimes in the region.
-Femi Falana is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria