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Elumelu opens up on non-activation of completed N4.5bn Nigeria-Benin border scheme

Following observed moribund state of the joint-border facility scheme powered by the European Union (EU) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) seating on Seme border in Badagry Local Government Area of Lagos State, the Head of Free Trade Movement and Migration Division of ECOWAS, Mr. Tony Elumelu, has given some facts holding back the takeoff.

Currently, the sorry state of the N4.5bn scheme is frustrating flow of legitimate trade and movement of vehicles across the Nigeria’s busiest land border; the Badagry-Seme border infrastructure.

While appearing for patience over the observed delays in the takeoff, he argued that “When you put a structure that will be used by more than one entity, there are lots of efforts going into that”. “There are a lot of components in terms of border management. You need to equip relevant agencies with necessary tools and materials to be able to operate. For example, for Immigration and Customs services, you need to make sure that the data of travellers are enshrined.

Though some prominent border community citizens blamed the delay in commissioning the project on lack of consensus between Nigeria and Benin Republic, Elumelu insisted that “You should also know that when you put a border, there are some necessary components that should be ready for the border to be operational. The border is to facilitate trade, which means that both countries have to talk to each other and avoid delay. “As for me I want everything to be fast, unfortunately it’s not easy that way, but all hands are on deck. There was a time that work stopped on the project and now there is relative progress made, which means that we are on course,” the chairman of United Bank for Africa (UBA) averred.

However, according to the company handling the delivery of the facility, the Grand Enterprise Route (GER-SA) Siam Togo, bureaucratic bottlenecks and changes in governments and inconsistencies in trade policies of both nations posed serious hurdles in the final delivery of the scheme.

Project manager of the scheme, Mr. Ago Soule said the company took over the project from the former contractor whose contract was terminated due to delay and noted that “Many challenges were encountered, especially on the Benin Republic side of the border, like court injunctions stopping us from demolishing structures on the right of way, movement of traders and transport operators during project execution, delay in getting exemption certificate to enable us to bring in our equipment and more. That was why we were given extension by ECOWAS.”

He however assured that his company is very much ready to deliver if all the hurdles are resolved within record time.

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