The proliferation of checkpoints along the Seme-Mile2 expressway, Lagos-Badagry road in Lagos State and Atan -Idiroko border roads appeared to have heightened thereby affecting trans-border trade between Nigeria and other Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS).
According to findings, the two roads which to neighbouring Benin Republic and other African countries had experienced gradual return of more security agencies that did not have checkpoints on the route before now.
The multiple checkpoints had led to restrictions for free movement of trade as vehicles are stopped intermittently for search. This, coupled with the failure of the Nigerian port system to accommodate huge imports through the country’s waters, has led to diversion of cargoes to neighbouring countries.
It was gathered that officers and men of the Nigeria Police, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), and the Nigerian Army, now dot the land border road stretch of Lagos – Seme and Atan- Idiroko Expressway.
According to investigation, on both stretch of the expressway, over 91 security agencies were stationed .
While 47 were counted on the Lagos -Seme roads, 34 were seen on the Atan – Idiroko with both roads leading to Benin Republic.
The checkpoints are mounted by the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), The Nigeria Immigration Service(NIS), The Federal Road Safety Corps(FRSC), The Vehicle Inspection Officers(VIO), Nigerian Army, Federal Anti-Robbery squad (FSARS) and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
Except for police, Customs and NDLEA and army, that maintained stationary checkpoints, others maintained a mobile stop-and-check. Also, NIS that is supposed to be stationed at the borders only, now has about eight checkpoints going and about ten on the return route of both stretch.
The police have about 10 on the way to Seme and about 15 on the return journey, while three were counted from Atan to Idiroko, five were counted on the return journey.
The army mounts its five checkpoints in the evenings on the return trip to Lagos at Odofa bus stop, Luri bus stop, Oko-Afo bus stop and two more between Badagry and Oko-Afo bus stop.
While Ajilete overhead bridge, Owode and Tipper garage also have presence of the military on the return route. For customs, there are no checkpoints from Agbara to Seme but on the return journey, there are three before the notorious Gbaji and another five before Agbara, making it eight, contrary to the three ordered by the comptroller-general, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd).
On the return journey from Idiroko, about 15 customs check points were counted with many not far from the other.
The checkpoints by the customs are manned by different units of the Service; including the Seme border command, Comptroller General’s strike force, Federal Operations Unit (FOU) and others.
Gbaji checkpoint has become so notorious that motorists spend between 30 minutes to one hour to do less than five kilometre distance.
It was further gathered that both the police and immigration have Seme and Idiroko commands and border patrols respectively at Seme and Idiroko.
All military and paramilitary agencies that were not present on the route before are now maintaining checkpoints.
In addition, amongst agencies, there is the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), that collects N200 from each vehicle using a camp boy (civilian front) as collector.
The FRSC has two shifts, morning and evening and drivers must pay the fare or get held for refusing to play along.
There is also National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NAFDAC, Quarantine Service and some other uniformed agencies. The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSDC) is now positioning itself at the opposite side when going to Seme. They were not on the route before now.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP, a clearing agent at Idiroko border, Alhaji Sulaiman Adeshina, queried the high number of check points on the roads. Adeshina, who said the road which is an international road should be free from encumbrances bemoaned impunity on the side of security agencies on the road.
He said, “Different units of police, customs and immigration on the same road. We have cross border police, SARS and even the conventional police. For ease of doing business, i implore the government to administer a matter of urgency prune down the number of checkpoints for free flow of trade on that corridor,” he said.
Also speaking, another clearing agent operating at the Seme border, Chukwuma Onyekachi, said proliferation of checkpoints on an international corridor was a disgrace to Nigeria. According to Onyekachi, the corridor should be free of encumbrances that can hinder trade facilitation.
He said, “These (Seme, Idiroko) are international corridors and should be free from unnecessary checkpoints rather technology should be employed.