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Border Closure: Benin Republic Retaliates, Stops 3700 Nigerian-Bound Cargo-Laden-Trucks

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In what appeared to be payback over Nigeria’s closure of some borders in 2019, the Government of the Republic of Benin has stopped 3,700 Nigerian-bound cargo-laden trucks from Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo at Ilakoji border, the border between Togo and the Benin Republic.

This development has left over 3,700 Nigeria-bound trucks laden with transit goods worth several billions of Naira trapped between Togo and the Benin Republic.

As a result of the blockage at Ilakoji, Tribune Online learnt that the Benin Government has imposed a new import duty payment of CFA9 million per transit truck laden with Nigeria-bound goods, an equivalent of about N6.5 million which are exempted from all forms of duty under ECOWAS protocols on transit goods.

Confirming the development, the Chairman of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANCLA) Seme border chapter, Bisiriyu Fanu said Benin authority actually stopped the cargoes that were coming from Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo to Nigeria at Ilakoji.

“Benin government wants to be collecting full duty on these goods. The Benin authorities claimed that they suspected that the goods are not West African produced goods.

“They didn’t even give any reason why they stopped the goods because when we asked them, they said they were investigating. What they are investigating, nobody knows. The Benin Republic Controller at Seme border said they didn’t give Ilakoji any circular.

“The issue has been on now for more than two weeks and it has not been resolved. I went with my team to the Nigerian embassy in Cotonou to make a formal report and they have escalated it to Abuja.

“The  Republic of Togo and Ghana have also escalated it to ECOWAS. They held about two to three meetings between the last two weeks and now, but they have not come to any conclusion.”

When asked if it’s a retaliatory move by the Benin Republic government over the Nigerian border closure policy, Fanu explained that he cannot authoritatively say that is the reason.

“I am not saying it’s a retaliatory move. The Benin Republic Controller told me it is a verbal directive and that they have to comply with it.

“Legally, a transit good is not supposed to pay a kobo because, in the transiting country, it will just pass through, but the Benin Republic government is demanding for duty on these goods at Ilakoji,” Fanu added.

Also speaking on the matter, the President, National Council of Managing Director of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, expressed surprise over the development and said the decision violates all protocols of the Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS on free trade, especially the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme ETLS.

He said the Nigerian government shouldn’t have closed it border against Benin for one and a half year, adding that Nigeria started what is happening now, which was a big mistake.

“If you look at the Benin Republic, they rely on Nigeria to survive. There must be something that made them do what they have done. We need to be very careful. I continue to say this; you don’t run Government on the impulse of body language. You run the government on the impulse of law.

“When you have an ECOWAS treaty, you don’t go and block the border without informing your neighbours that you want to close the border. What they supposed to have done like what America has done, which is mutual administrative assistance.

“There should have been mutual administrative assistance between Benin and Nigeria because both countries have Customs union,” Amiwero explained.

He added that what has happened now is like the Benin Republic is trying to pay Nigeria back in her own coins.

“If you look at the Benin Republic and other West African countries, they have built their economy over time  Their ports is now the hub in the region. It looks like they are now ready to withstand Nigeria in terms of economic blockage.

“I don’t see any reason why the Benin Republic is blocking borders because it has never happened before. It is Nigeria that has closed its borders before now.

“This one that the Benin Republic is closing border, it is a very serious issue. How can Nigeria now go into this Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement? It is a serious issue,” Amiwero added.

Culled from Tribune

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Economy

Fuel Scarcity: FG Raises 14-Man Panel for Solution

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The Federal Government is meeting with operators in the midstream and downstream oil sector as part of measures towards developing strategic stock for Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, in key locations across the country.

It said the national strategic stocks would help in addressing the recurring fuel scarcity in Nigeria, as it also announced the constitution of a 14-man committee to find a lasting solution to the disruptions in the supply and distribution of petroleum products.

The Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources stated that President Muhammadu Buhari, had approved the  constitution of a 14-man Steering Committee on Petroleum Products Supply and Distribution Management, which he would personally chair.

The ministry said the move was to find lasting solution to the disruptions in the supply and distribution of petroleum products across the country.

It said the committee had the Minister of State for Petroleum Resource, Chief Timipre Sylva, as Alternate Chairman, as the team would ensure transparent and efficient supply and distribution of petroleum products.

“Other terms of reference are to ensure national strategic stock management, visibility on the NNPC Limited refineries rehabilitation programme and ensure end-to-end tracking of petroleum products, especial PMS, to ascertain daily national consumption and eliminate smuggling,” the FMPR stated in a statement.

To ensure sanity in the supply and distribution across the value chain, Sylva directed the NMDPRA to ensure strict compliance with the government approved ex-depot and retail prices for PMS.

The ministry stated that other members of the committee include the Minister of Finance; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources; National Economic Adviser to the President; and Director-General, Department of State Services.

Others include the Comptroller-General, Nigerian Customs Service; Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission; and Commandant-General, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps.

The Chief Executive, NMDPRA; Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria; Group Chief Executive Officer, NNPC Limited; Special Advisor (Special Duties) to the HMSPR; were also listed as members of the committee, while the Technical Advisor (Midstream) to the HMSPR would serve as secretary.

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Economy

CBN Raises Interest Rate to 17.5%

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The Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria has voted to increase the benchmark interest rate by 100 basis points to 17.5 per cent.

The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, disclosed this while reading the communiqué of the first MPC meeting of the year on Tuesday.

This is the fifth time the CBN would increase the interest rate despite advice from manufacturers and some key stakeholders.

The CBN said previous increases were beginning to yield results with the slight drop in the inflation rate recorded in December 2022.

However, the CBN stressed that there was a need to keep tightening its fiscal policy.

The CBN keeps the asymmetric corridor at +100/-700 basis points around the MPR.

The CBN also retained the CRR at 32.5 per cent while the liquidity ratio was kept at 30 per cent.

The apex bank had increased the MPR from 11.5 per cent earlier last year to 16.5 per cent across four consecutive rate hikes in 2022.

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Economy

Old Naira Notes: No going Back on January 31 Deadline, CBN Insists

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has declared that it will not extend the January 31 deadline for N1,000, N500 and N200 notes to cease being legal tender despite pressure from Nigerians on the need for an extension of the deadline.

The apex bank also warned commercial banks in the country to desist from dispensing the old naira currency through their Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) or face sanction from the bank.

Addressing traders at the Katsina Central Market Thursday on the need to change their old currency, the CBN Director of Currency Operations, Ahmed Bello Umar, said there is no plan to extend the deadline.

The old notes are expected to be out of circulation by January 31 yet there is scarcity of the new notes as banks keep dispensing old notes to their customers across the country.

But Umar explained that the apex bank has enough new naira currency which have since been distributed across commercial banks for onward disbursement to their respective customers through ATMs.

He added that the management of the CBN has directed that from Friday last week, “all ATMs must carry only new notes. If the banks don’t have the new notes they should not load the old notes”.

He said: “The January 31 deadline is fast approaching and the CBN has no plan to extend the deadline. So, all those who have the old notes should please take them to their banks so that they will be exchanged or credited to their accounts.

“We are going round towns and cities in Nigeria to ensure that all the ATMs are loaded with new notes. And there is relaxation on the policy, they can dispense any of the notes either N1,000, N500 or N200 notes.

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