A Senior Advocate of Nigeria and President of West African Bar Association, Barrister Femi Falana, has alleged that President Muhammadu Buhari has ’embarrassingly’ failed to address the root cause of smuggling of goods from Benin Republic to Nigeria.
Nigeria’s land border with Benin Republic Nigeria has been closed since August 2019 as part of measures by the Buhari administration to stop smuggling of rice and other goods from the West African country to Nigeria.
The border has remained closed as the authorities in Benin Republic have not met the conditions laid down by Nigeria.
But Falana, in statement on Saturday. said smuggling into Nigeria has been on the increase since President Patrice Talon of Benin Republic awarded the contract for the management of the Port of Cotonou to his own private company, called Benin Control.
He added that the company has also 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 and 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.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria compared President Buhari’s inaction to the action taken by former President Olusegun Obasanjo following following incessant trans border crimes including armed robberies and smuggling of vehicles from Nigeria to Benin Republic in 2003.
He noted that the Olusegun Obasanjo administration had closed the land border between Nigeria and Benin Republic for about a week after confirmation 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.
Falana noted that though the suspect 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 and 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,” the Senior Advocate of Nigeria said.