Nigeria and Republic of Benin on Tuesday strengthened their bi-lateral relationship with the formal opening of the new Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Joint Border Post at Seme-Krake, Badagry, Lagos State.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the project which began in 2011 was financed by the European Union Commission under the Transport Facilitation Programme at an estimated cost of €18.2 million.
Speaking at the ceremony, President Muhammadu Buhari, who is also the Chairman, ECOWAS Heads of State, Authority and Government, thanked the EU for its commitment to the development of the sub-region.
Buhari noted that the EU had apart from funding the Seme-Krake border post, also provided funds for similar projects at Noepe-Akanu (Ghana/Togo) and Malanville JBP (Benin /Niger).
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“The Seme-Krake Joint Border Post is located on the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor, which represents about 70 per cent of the sub-region’s total transit trade.
“The JBP will serve a significant population in the two beneficiary countries of Nigeria and Benin with an estimated population of over 200 million,” he said.
Buhari said the JBP would facilitate seamless movements of persons, goods and services between both countries and improve regional integration which was one of the objectives of ECOWAS.
“It is a symbol of integration which brings together the people of Nigeria and Benin,” the president added.
Also, the President of Benin, Mr Patrice Talon, said both countries had a shared history and an inseparable future, stressing that it would create an easier life for citizens and other travelers.
Talon said: “Our police administrations will cooperate more easily to ensure our safety. Our customs administrations will be more efficient in their mission.
“In short, bringing our border administrations together in one space and connecting them to each other will help improve the performance of our respective administrations and the comfort of the movement of people and their goods.”
Mr Ketil Karlsen, Head, EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, said the project was a reflection of the priority that the EU was giving to the African continent, noting that free movement of people and goods would create new opportunities and jobs for the people.
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Karlsen said: “What is good for ECOWAS, what is good for Nigeria, what is good for Benin, is also good for the EU.”
NAN reports that Buhari arrived at the event at 11.25am in a Nigeria Air Force Helicopter with registration number NAF 541.
The president was received amidst chants of “Sai Baba”, “Sai Baba” by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geofrey Onyema and the Comptroller General, Nigeria Immigration Service, Alhaji Muhammed Babandede.
Also on ground to receive him were the Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd.) and the Nigeria Ambassador to Benin Republic, Amb. Kayode Oguntuase.