A major border crossing between Nigeria and Benin Republic remained closed yesterday, without formal notice, leaving thousands of people and vehicles stranded on both sides.
The Seme Border which is 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.
Online medium, Premium Times observed that the closure continued 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 the medium 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,” he added.
Another Nigerian traveler 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 the medium learnt was still in effect as of 4:30 pm 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.
“It will take several days and we have been working to ensure that it does not result in too much disruption for travelers,” ,” Customs spokesperson, Joseph Attah, said.
He was however unable to clarify why there was no formal announcement about the planned security exercise.