There are strong indications that the ripple effect of the Federal Government’s ban on the importation of vehicles through land borders is beginning to hit Benin Republic hard.
Reports have it that more than 2,000 car dealers have closed shop following the action of Nigeria.
Findings from Seme, West Africa’s busiest border town, reveal that many hitherto thriving car dealer shops in Cotonou have closed down since there is no longer any business across the border again.
This is even as investigations revealed that many importers are losing billions of Naira to constant vehicle seizure and forfeiture triggered by increased Customs surveillance.
According to a vehicle agent, Kingsley Anagor, who used to do businesses with many car dealers in Cotonou, more than half of his customers have parked up.
He said, “You know that majority of the car dealers in Benin Republic are Lebanese. That’s the main business there. Many of them have invested so much in this business. Many have brought in many luxury cars with the Nigerian market as their major destination prior to the ban.
“But recently, when I went visiting to collect some debt owed me by some of my clients with who we have done businesses together, I was shocked to find out that many have closed shop. Some of my debtors have simply disappeared into thin air with my money.
“There are over 3,000 car dealer shops in Benin Republic. But as I speak to you, more than half has closed shops. Go to Benin Republic now, many are roaming the streets doing nothing.”
When asked why car dealers’ shops in Benin Republic are closing down since vehicles still get smuggled into Nigeria, he explained, “Yes, guys go into Benin Republic to smuggle vehicles into Nigeria, but the success rate is very average these days.
“The Customs have deployed all their officers hitherto on the border vehicle seats to patrol teams, thereby bolstering its patrol force.
“The success rate of smuggling is now very average. This Customs guys know all the routes. Although smuggling still takes place, many vehicles are being caught these days because the Customs suddenly has more hands in its patrol team.
“That was why the truck carrying 661 pump action rifles was nabbed after being cleared by some other Customs guys at the ports.
“With increased surveillance by Customs after the vehicle ban, buyers of vehicles across the borders now only pay completely after delivery due to the reduced success rate of smuggling. This has cost many of the car dealers in Cotonou billions of Naira, and has forced more than half of them to close shop.
“Many vehicles have been seized by Customs. Many of these seized vehicles were half paid for. The fear of forfeiture by the owners led to half payment agreement. Full payment only happens if the smuggling is successful.”