Thousands stranded as Nigeria suddenly closes Seme Border

Seme Border used to illustrate the story.
Seme Border used to illustrate the story.

A major border crossing between Nigeria and Benin Republic remained closed on Wednesday without formal notice, leaving thousands of people and vehicles stranded on both sides.

The Seme Border, the busiest land crossing in Nigeria, was shut on Tuesday after some truckloads of prohibited tramadol and codeine were intercepted in Lagos on August 16.

The closure continued on Wednesday morning, with Nigerians streaming towards their country’s border from Benin Republic hoping they would be allowed into their country.

Benin Republic traders who had entered Nigeria to supply goods in Lagos were also stranded and prevented from returning to their country.

Victims of the abrupt shutdown of West Africa’s main commerce corridor were seen fuming about their ordeal on social media Wednesday.

The Nigerian government closed the border “without any information and we have thousands of Nigerians stranded in Benin Republic trying to come into Nigeria,” Alfred Eseoghene, a used car salesman who was amongst those stranded, told PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday afternoon. “The military is not allowing anybody to come in or go out through the land border.”

“I came in through the bush partly because I have been working in Seme for years,” Mr Eseoghene added.

Another Nigerian traveller caught in the disruption posted a video of the hardship on Twitter Wednesday afternoon.

“Nigeria immigrations are treating their fellow Nigeria’s (sic) like animals are the Seme border. I have been here since 6pm yesterday. I pity this country,” another Twitter user, Oyelesi Mayowa, said in an update at 3:01 a.m. Wednesday.

The travellers said officials at the border have declined to explain the cause of the closure, which PREMIUM TIMES learnt was still in effect as of 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Sunday James, a spokesperson for the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), did not immediately return requests for comments. But the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) said an ongoing joint security exercise caused the disruption.

“A joint security exercise is ongoing to better secure the border,” Customs spokesperson, Joseph Attah, told PREMIUM TIMES. “It will take several days and we have been working to ensure that it does not result in too much disruption for travellers.”

The official was unable to clarify why there was no formal announcement about the planned security exercise that was capable of causing such interruption to persons and businesses across the sub-region.

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