Falana Asks ECOWAS to Punish Beninese President for Encouraging Smuggling

Femi Falana

Tobi Soniyi

Lagos lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, (SAN) has called on the Economic Community for West African Countries (ECOWAS ) to sanction the President of Benin Republic, Patrice Talon for failing to halt smuggling of goods from Benin to Nigeria.

In a statement he issued yesterday, Falana said that since Talon awarded the contract for the management of the Port of Cotonou to his own private company, called Benin Control, smuggling of goods from Benin to Nigeria had been on the increase.

Falana said: “As if that is not enough, the company has been empowered to take over the statutory duties and responsibilities of the Customs Administration of Benin Republic.

“In other words, the Customs Service in Benin Republic is under the control snd supervision of Benin Control.

“On account of such apparent conflict of interests the Talon administration has refused to halt the smuggling of goods from Benin Republic to Nigeria.”

He said that in view of the fact that the Customs Service in Benin Republic was hampered from collaborating with its Nigerian counterpart to stop the smuggling of goods from Benin Republic to Nigeria ECOWAS ought to sanction Talon for using his private company to frustrate the control of trans border crimes in the region.

Falana recalled that in August this year, the border between Nigeria and Cotonou was closed down due to the smuggling of rice and other goods from Benin Republic to Nigeria.

According to him, the border has remained closed as the authorities in Benin Republic have not met the conditions laid down by Nigeria.

He said: “It is however embarassing to note that the Buhari administration has failed to address the root cause of the smuggling of goods from Benin Republic to Nigeria. “

Falana recalled how former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003 closed down borders between Benin and Nigeria following incessant trans border crimes including armed robberies and smuggling of vehicles from Nigeria to Benin Republic.

He said: “Before the border closure the federal government had investigated and confirmed that one Mr. Ahmadu Tijanni, a highly influential citizen of Niger Republic based in Cotonue, Benin Republic was the mastermind of the trans border criminal activities. Even though he was a sacred cow in Benin Republic Mr. Tijanni was arrested by a team of the Nigeria Police Force which invaded Cotonue during the border closure.

“The criminal suspect was handcuffed and brought to Nigeria to face justice. Even though he sued Nigeria at the Court of Justice of the Ecowas at Abuja the case was dismissed on technical grounds. Tidjani was tried, convicted and jailed for armed robbery by the Ogun State High Court.

“Thereafter, the Lagos state government charged Mr. Tijanni with armed robbery in the Lagos High Court. He was standing trial when he died of stroke in custody at the Kirikiri prison. “