BY: Victoria Ojeme
ABUJA: Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama, on Monday said that the Federal Government has set up Presidential Task force to dismantle all check-points on Nigeria-Benin route to encourage trade and regional integration
Onyeama said this when the members of ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ELTS) Task Force at the borders of member states paid him a courtesy visit.
The ELTS Task Force led by its Spokesperson, Mr Ken Ukaoha, also gave the report of its finding on activities across the borders along the route and factors impeding free trade in the region.
The minister said that the Presidential Taskforce on Check-Points which would be inaugurated soon is domicile in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
“The government has set up a task force to address the checkpoint issues; clearly, Mr president has given the directive to remove all check-points.
“As soon as this is implemented we will have some progress in that area.
“The task force will give recommendation on dismantling different check-points along the border route, the taskforce will get stakeholders involved.
“Government has also set up a steering committee of the stakeholders to come together to address the challenges,” he said
He expressed the determination of President Muhammadu Buhari who is the Chairperson of ECOWAS to ensure free trade within the region.
“It is depressing some of your discoveries and that is part of the challenges and the issue of corruption that the president is dealing with
“As you can see the various areas and the impact on the trade in the region
“We are chairing ECOWAS at the moment, we will continue the work that you are doing and ensure the removal of all barriers to trade and in our sub-region,” he said
According to him, also the issue of smuggling which is also putting a real strain on the objectives of our organisation, the ECOWAS and this is something that is harming our countries and we have to address that
“And of course the re-parking and reloading are part of the security measure that we want to take with respect with a scanner and once that is done we are determined to take all the necessary measures to address all the issues you have raised
“All the ECOWAS countries have to address and to make sure that the all the provisions of ECOWAS are maintained otherwise the efforts are defeated,” he said
The ETLS Taskforce had earlier told the minister its findings which include multiple checkpoints along the border between Nigeria and Benin Republic.
He said that the Taskforce undertook a tour from Lagos to Seme and to Benin and its discoveries were surprising.
He explained the team met ten check-points manned by different uniform men when going to Benin from Lagos instead of two approved by ECOWAS law.
Ukaoha said that situation became worse when the team was returning as the checkpoints had increased to 33 made up of police, customs, immigration, NDLEA, Federal Road Safety Corps and quarantine staff.
He expressed concern that progress in trade liberation had been impeded because of different by unnecessary checks points along the borders in the region
“Much progress has not been made in term of trade though on other areas some level of achievement has been made, but essentially on the aspect of trade
“If the ECOWAS can move as a region over 45 per cent of the wealth that should have been generated by over 350 million people in ECOWAS would have really helped in reducing poverty,
“Movement of people, goods and services have been impeded by a lot of factors in the region and therefore the subject of poverty reduction has not been achieved,” he said.
The ELTS Task Force said there was the need to improve the operations at the joint border which he said had just been commissioned.