In the wake of the recent coup in Niger, hundreds of trucks find themselves stuck at the Benin-Niger border, creating a logistical nightmare for transporters and importers alike.
The blockage, which has been ongoing for over a week, is a result of Benin closing its border with Niger in compliance with the decisions made by the Economic Community of West African States. As a consequence of this closure, truck drivers are facing numerous challenges and hardships.
One of the most immediate concerns for the drivers is the expiration of their insurance and technical inspection certificates. As the trucks remain stationary at the border, their insurance and technical inspection documents continue to run out, leaving the drivers in a precarious position.
Ousmane Ouataro, a truck driver en route to Niger, expressed his frustrations, stating, “When you’re parked like that, the validity of the insurance runs out every day, the technical inspection too, the papers are running out.” This predicament not only adds financial burden to the already strained transporters but also raises concerns about the legality and safety of their operations.
In addition to the administrative issues, the truck drivers are also struggling with basic necessities such as food. Being stuck at the border for an extended period means that they are unable to access affordable and nutritious meals.
Ouataro highlighted this challenge, saying, “Let’s not even talk about the food here. How much are you going to eat in two weeks? The apprentices, you have two apprentices, they’re going to spend 1,000 CFA francs a day on food.” This daily expenditure on food adds to the financial burden that truck drivers are facing, further exacerbating their predicament.
The impact of this blockage extends beyond individual truck drivers. Rabiou Garba, the President of the Syndicat des transporteurs et des importateurs nouveaux associés du Bénin (Syntra-Inab), shed light on the larger scale of the issue.
He explained that many trucks have diverted to Kandi, another town near the border, since the capacity of the Malanville fleet is limited to 200 trucks. Garba emphasised the magnitude of the problem, stating that there are “600 trucks and on one truck, there’s more than one or even two containers loaded. So there are billions in backlogs.” This backlog not only complicates the transportation of goods but also delays the importation of essential commodities into Niger, potentially causing shortages and price fluctuations.
Issiaka Bassé, a truck driver en route to Niger, also expresses his frustration with the situation. “We left our families to find food and provide for them, but we are now stuck here without any updates or solutions. It has been 16 days since we’ve been stranded. We urge the African population to resolve their issues so that we can pass through. We are willing to unload our cargo and peacefully return to our families.”
In response to the crisis, the West African bloc has approved the deployment of a “standby force” aimed at restoring constitutional order in Niger. This decision was made during an emergency summit held in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. However, the scheduled meeting of defence chiefs in Accra, Ghana’s capital on August 12th has been put on hold for now.