According to Wikipedia Cotonou is considered a “Market Town” enabling trade with the countries of the African interior, such as Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. In addition to the port, there is a free trade zone in the interior of the city for use by the landlocked Saharan states. However, the city is rife with corruption and illegal trade, especially with Nigeria. Cotonou is the economic capital of Benin as it houses two-thirds of the country’s industries and is the headquarters of the nation’s major enterprises and banks. Cotonou has become a major market for smuggled goods into Nigeria.
Following the ban of importation of vehicles through land border in January 2017, the volume of cars smuggled into the country from Cotonou through Seme, Idiroko and other land borders has risen astronomically. This is because of the approval of the reduction of charges on transit vehicles by 27 percent by the government of Benin Republic. This makes the cost of purchasing a vehicle from Cotonou to be more attractive to Nigerians.
Unfortunately, Nigeria’s tariff on imported vehicles remains astronomically high at 35 percent import duty and another 35 percent surcharge amounting to a total of 70 percent which is the highest in the world, thereby discouraging use of Nigerian ports.
Given a 15-year age limit for vehicles coming into Nigeria; in Cotonou, there is no age limit imposed on imported vehicles. This open option is attractive to most Nigerians since it fits into everyone’s purchasing budget. The reason for imposing this limit by the Nigerian government is to control emission levels, which could be dangerous to the environment but rarely do such emission level monitored.
It is true that imported vehicles brought in through the land border with Cotonou are cheaper than the ones brought in through the Nigerian sea ports. To strengthen our economy, Nigerian government needs to make import our tariffs competitive. If we make it competitive, definitely, I believe that most Nigerians would want to take their vehicles through the Nigerian ports.