Abiodun Taiwo, Abeokuta
When In August 2019, the Nigerian government took border communities and West African trading partners by surprise by announcing the closure of its land borders with several neighbouring states, a retired Superintendent of Customs, Alhaj AbdulFatai Aremu Adegbite has said no fewer than 500 vehicles are illegally shipped into the country daily.
Speaking to Journalists at Iwe-Iroyin, Abeokuta, Ogun State, a former Superintendent of Customs, AbdulFatai Adegbite called on President Muhammad Buhari- to reconsider his stand on the banning of the second-hand vehicle into the country and go back to the tripartite pact with Nigeria, Benin Republic, and Niger, saying that the policy, rather than assist Nigeria, it has added to the suffering of the masses and loss of revenue for the country.
It could be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari while announcing the closure of the border, said the policy was to prevent the smuggling of rice and other food items into Nigeria, which the government claimed diminished local agricultural production.
The government said the policy will encourage Nigerians to purchase local agricultural products, especially rice, in a boost for long-suffering domestic farmers.
But in December the government finally reopened border posts, while keeping in place some restrictions on rice, secondhand vehicles, and other goods, after it became clear that the closures had not achieved any of their goals.
The reopening came shortly after Nigeria ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, which is designed to tear down trade barriers across Africa and usher in a new era of continental free trade.
The border control policy failed in several ways. While the primary aim of the closures was to curtail food imports into Nigeria, they blocked other vital imports and exports from and to Benin, Niger, and Cameroon. Communities along with the border and small and medium-sized businesses that trade over the boundaries lost their livelihoods overnight and saw their operations hampered by bureaucracy.
AbdulFatai Adegbite, a former member, a joint committee of commerce, between Nigeria and the Benin Republic, claims that smugglers merely rerouted their operations to avoid the closure of formal border posts, emboldening the black market at the expense of legal traders.
He opined that the policy rather than it achieving its aims has added to the incessant face-off between the Customs Servicemen and the people.
“Corrupt security officials were helping in the movement of vehicles into the country illegally through the porous borders, and found evidence of continuing smuggling activities on the Nigeria-Benin border.
“The closure removed that stop-gap or margin that importation has always satisfied. When that happens, you begin to see shortages and Nigeria begins to lose billions of naira to the illegal importation of vehicles.
The solution to this was to go back to the 2003 agreement between Nigeria and the Benin Republic when former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Mathieu Kerekou of Benin were Presidents.
The agreement gave room for any vehicle coming into Nigeria to pay full customs duty, thereby given the revenue that may be been diverted into the Federal government purse. There was no room for diversion then, and no crisis between Customs Service and the people.
“We were able to convince the people that the game has changed, it is no more like what you use to do then, no more bush”.
“Go to Seme, you pay your duty, go to Idiiroko, you pay your duty. This was done for some time before it was stopped. Now we are losing a lot of money, the money generated from duty from Tokunbo vehicles was very high.
“Though the border is open now, the people are seriously suffering, the government should be responsive to the yearnings of the people, most especially those at the border towns and other stakeholders.
“As I am talking to you now, the Beninoise people are ready because President Talon is fighting corruption to zero levels. We should face how to improve our economy, and stop smugglers, Customs clashes which oftentimes result into the killing of innocent people”.
KQ resumes Mumbai flights after 4 months
- Kenya Airways will on Thursday resume flights to Mumbai, ending a four-month hiatus that was occasioned by increased cases of Covid-19 in the Asian state.
- The airline in a notice to its customers yesterday said it will resume its operations on the route on September 16, 2021 with the first flight departing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 7am to arrive in Mumbai at 3:45 pm.
Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ will on Thursday resume flights to Mumbai, ending a four-month hiatus that was occasioned by increased cases of Covid-19 in the Asian state.
The airline in a notice to its customers Monday said it will resume its operations on the route on September 16, 2021 with the first flight departing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 7am to arrive in Mumbai at 3:45 pm.
The airline will then resume full operations on the route on September 20, flying three times per week on the Indian route, which is one of the most lucrative destinations on its network.
Passengers on the route will part with Sh46,000 ($419) for one-way air ticket on economy class seats from Nairobi to Mumbai- prices that are relatively the same compared to what it was charging before the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Welcome back onboard! Fly from Nairobi to Mumbai starting Thursday 16th September with normal schedules resuming from Monday 20th September 2021,” said the airline in a notice to its customers yesterday.
KQ Suspended passenger flights to and from Mumbai on April 30 until further notice, following a government directive on travel between India and Kenya due to a Covid-19 crisis in that country.
The airline said on Friday that passengers who had booked tickets after May 1, the date of the last flight from Mumbai to Nairobi, will have to change their plans.
Affected passengers, KQ said, could also take vouchers for the value of their fare for future travel within 12 months.
India has seen soaring infection rates in the recent days, since the discovery of a new virus variant. Last month, India put on lockdown one of the states following a spike in cases of Covid-19.
Other countries that have banned flights to India include France, the UK Bangladesh, Oman and Hong Kong that have banned travel to and from India or asked their nationals coming from the Asian country to isolate themselves in government-approved hotels.
India has so far detected 33,264,175 corona virus cases with the number of deaths hitting 442,874 as at September 13.
A large number of patients from Kenya also travel to India every year for specialised medical treatment, especially cancer care, helping to drive medical tourism in the densely populated country that boasts affordable and easily accessible healthcare.
Lower import volumes push mitumba prices to new highs
- Traders paid Sh100,527 on average per tonne of the used clothes, popularly called mitumba, compared to Sh96,286 the previous year.
- Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) banned importation of the clothes from late March through mid-August in a bid to contain the spread of the life-threatening coronavirus infections.
- Findings of the Economic Survey 2021 suggests dealers shipped in 121,778 tonnes of mitumba in 2020, a 34.02 percent fall compared with 2019 and the lowest volumes since 2015.
The average price of a tonne of second-hand clothing items imported into the country crossed the Sh100,000 mark for the first time last year on reduced volumes in the wake of safety protocols and guidelines to curb spread of coronavirus.
Traders paid Sh100,527 on average per tonne of the used clothes, popularly called mitumba, compared to Sh96,286 the previous year.
Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) banned importation of the clothes from late March through mid-August in a bid to contain the spread of the life-threatening coronavirus infections.
Findings of the Economic Survey 2021 suggests dealers shipped in 121,778 tonnes of mitumba in 2020, a 34.02 percent fall compared with 2019 and the lowest volumes since 2015.
Last year’s drop was the first dip since 2011 when 76,533 tonnes were shipped in compared with 80,423 tonnes the previous year, the official data collated by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows.
The import bill for the merchandise amounted to Sh12.24 billion, a drop of 31.11 percent, or Sh5.53 billion, year-on-year.
TIn imposing the temporary ban on used clothes, Kebs had applied a standard which prohibits buying second-hand clothes from countries experiencing epidemics to ensure disease-causing microorganisms are not imported into Kenya.
Higher quality and relatively lower prices for mitumba has continued to drive demand for used clothes at expense of locally-made products amid higher margins enjoyed by traders largely operating in informal markets.
The lucrative second-hand clothing market has seen traders from China —a key source market for the merchandise —open shops in Gikomba, Kenya’s largest informal market for mitumba, in recent years to cash in rising demand.
Earnings from exports of articles of apparel and clothing accessories fell 5.32 percent to Sh32.92 billion last year compared with 2019, data indicates.
Court backs Atwoli union in horticulture membership feud
- A trade union that is led by the long-serving Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli has survived an attempt to stop it from representing over 60,000 workers in the horticulture industry.
- Newly registered Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture, and Allied Workers Union (Kefhau) had filed as a case in the Employment and Labour seeking to bar the Atwoli-led Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) from representing workers in the industry.
A trade union that is led by the long-serving Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli has survived an attempt to stop it from representing over 60,000 workers in the horticulture industry.
Newly registered Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture, and Allied Workers Union (Kefhau) had filed as a case in the Employment and Labour seeking to bar the Atwoli-led Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) from representing workers in the industry.
Mr Atwoli is the secretary-general of KPAWU. The rival union claimed KPAWU had encroached on its area of workers’ representation.
Justice James Rika, however, dismissed the claim and ruled that the dispute should have been taken through conciliation, and was therefore presented in court prematurely.
He also stated that Kefhau must go beyond its registration and recruit sufficient members from the employers, to be granted recognition and organisational rights.
“Registration on its own, does not afford the claimant (Kefhau) recognition. Until there is proof that Kefhau has satisfied Section 54 of the Labour Relations Act, the status quo must be maintained,” said the judge.
“Kefhau must recruit at least 50 percent plus one, of the unionisable employees in the floriculture and horticulture industry, members of the Agricultural Employers Association to be considered for recognition,” he stated.
He noted that there is a Recognition Agreement and CBA, binding Mr Atwoli’s union and Agricultural Employers Association, affecting 73 Flower Growers Group of employers, and over 60,000 employees.
“It is objectionable for Kefhau to be allowed organisational rights, and the legitimacy to receive trade union dues and agency fees, from over 60,000 employees, just on the strength of registration as a trade union,” said the judge.
Kefhau wanted the court to declare that it is the sole trade union, which is allowed by its constitution to carry out activities in the export floriculture and vegetable industry, and an order restraining Mr Atwoli’s from representing workers in that area.