Port concessionaires under the aegis of the Seaport Terminal Operators of Nigeria STOAN have through their weight behind the Federal Government over its decision to place a blanket ban on the importation of vehicles through all the nation’s land borders.

The government had on Monday announced the prohibition of the importation of all fully built units of vehicles through its land borders under its new automotive policy.

Chairman of the association, Princess Vicky Haastrup, while reacted to the policy, also called on the government to slash the current 35 percent duty paid on all vehicles imported into the country.

According to her, if well implemented by the Nigeria Customs Service, both the tariff reduction and ban on vehicles imported through the land borders would curtail the massive smuggling of vehicles into Nigeria and revive the operations of Roll-On-Roll-Off RORO terminals in the country, many of which are comatose due to the high tariff on imported vehicles.

RORO terminals are specialised port terminals that handle all types of vehicles. 

The Federal Government should take a step further by scrapping the high import duty regime imposed on vehicles by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2013 as part of measures to reduce the number of vehicles imported into the country”

“We are confident of the ability of President Muhammadu Buhari to turn the economy around. The earlier ban on importation of rice and now of vehicles, through the land borders is a welcome development.

“We are happy that the President has listened to our appeal to reverse incongruous policies inherited by his government from the former administration and which have deprived Nigerian ports of cargoes to the advantage of the ports of neighbouring countries. 

“In addition to this ban through the land borders, we appeal to the President to return the import duties on vehicles to 20% from the prohibitive 70% tariff imposed by the former administration.

“The reversal to the old tariff will serve as an incentive for Nigerians to import legitimately through the seaports and make appropriate payments to government. This will boost revenue collection by the Nigeria Customs Service. It will also lead to the return of lost jobs at the affected ports. 

“We also appeal to Customs officers at the border posts to support the Federal Government and the NCS leadership by ensuring that no smuggled vehicle finds its way into the country through the land borders from 1st January 2017 when the new policy is expected to come into effect,” Haastrup said. 

She argued since 2014 when the 70 per cent hike in the tariff of imported vehicles came into effect, Nigeria has lost 80 per cent of their its vehicle cargo traffic to the ports of neighbouring countries.

Stakeholders believe that since the high tariff regime was introduced, importers have resorted to routing their vehicles imports through the ports of neighbouring countries and smuggle them into the country without paying appropriate duty to government, a development that led to huge loss of revenue. 

It is also believed that the policy has led to the loss of over 5,000 direct and indirect jobs at the affected port terminals as the terminal operators had to reduce staff strength following the decline of vehicle throughput by more than 70 per cent.

The government had under its new National Automotive Policy jacked up tariff on imported fully built units of vehicles from 10 per cent to 35 per cent, which it has said was the first phase of the policy.

The second phase of the policy, which imposed additional 35 per cent levy slated to kickoff July 1, 2015 could not commence following the outcome of the general elections in which the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party PDP lost the presidency.