The volume of imports into Nigeria through its neighbour, Benin Republic, has continued on a downward slide through July and October 2021, falling by as much as 95 percent due to hostile economic policies recently introduced by French-speaking West African countries.
While the imports have been dropping, the exports of Dangote products to Benin has risen by 80%. Dangote goods exported include seasonings, sugar, salt and noodles among others.
The hostile trade policy by Benin Republic has also continued to put pressure on the naira as it continues on a downward slide in the open market.
At Seme-Krake border in Badagry, that Benin’s hostile trade policy which was recently placed by the government involves a multitude of duties on goods transiting through the country from other West Africa nations into Nigeria.
The import through the Benin Republic might drop further if nothing is done by the federal government to ensure a reversal before the end of 2021, observers said.
One of such is the transit duty of about N9m imposed on goods passing through the country by road. According to Nigerian investors, in the October Business Environment Update released by the Centre for Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE), it negates the trade liberalisation policy in the West African region.
Benin Republic Customs in June 2021 imposed an outrageous transit duty of an average of N9 million per truck for vehicles originating from Nigeria and crossing the Benin border to other West African countries.
The Chief Executive Officer of CPPE, Dr. Muda Yusuf, who issued the business environment update, lamented that the trend has continued to make it very difficult for companies exporting or importing by road to do so as it is essentially a blockade of movement of trucks through the Benin border.
Operators said the practice defeats the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) which is meant to permit the movement of goods among the member states.
A top Customs official said all efforts by the authority in charge of the Seme Command of the Nigeria Customs were rebuffed.
The Customs Area Controller, Bello Jibo, revealed that despite the unfriendly economic policies imposed on goods transiting through the Benin Republic by the same Benin authority, the command was able to collect the sum of N830,596,352 only as revenue from January to September 2021.
Jibo explained that, without any information, the Benin Republic in July, 2021 mandated that some duties and levies be collected on goods transiting through their country.
He said under exports, the command processed and exited export trade volume of 273,117 metric tons with a Free Onboard (FOB) value of N17.698 billion.
“The Nigerian Export Supervision Scheme (NESS) value stood at N88.875m from January to date. In addition to that, the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) Unit treated 1587 trucks of goods under the scheme.
Though the official exchange rate of the West African CFA franc to naira was put at N0.73, the rate recently increased by 0.11% in the FX market and 0.66% in the black market.
But trading at the border post shows a different trend as naira now sells for N998 to 1000 CFA, making the two currencies almost at par with each other.
A trader, Vincent Oyenma, who goes to Cotonou, in the Benin Republic, to buy footwear revealed that most Bureau De Change operators would not change naira for CFA as from 4pm.
A customs licensed clearing agent at Seme-Border, Emeka Chidubem, said import through Benin Republic might reach ground zero before the end of the year if nothing is done.
“One might be tempted to say that importers should jettison using the land borders to bring in their goods, but the gridlock and the multiple charges by officers at the nation’s seaports are also discouraging factors.”