Terminal operators kick as Reps oppose vehicle importation ban
Port concessionaires have taken a swipe at the House of Representatives, Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber over its call on President Muhammandu Buhari to reverse the new policy that bans the importation of vehicles through the land borders.
The House had yesterday asked the Federal Government to suspend its new policy and specifically advised the President to intervene by urgently directing the Nigeria Customs Service to reverse the policy, expected to begin January 1, 2017.
A top official of one of the terminal operating companies, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that by this suggestion, the House members are not in tune with current realities on ground.
According to him, the Nigerian Government would continue to lose huge revenue as long as the country continues to import vehicles through the land borders, which are not properly manned.
“The greatest beneficiaries of Nigeria’s vehicle import through the land borders would remain her neighbouring West Africa countries, especially Republic of Benin and Togo”, he argued.
He drew the attention of the representatives to the fact that the government of the Republic of Benin deliberately built a very large vehicle terminal to take undue advantage of Nigeria’s policy of importing vehicles through the land borders, as more than 80 per cent of such vehicles end up in Nigeria after the import duty has been paid to the Benin government.
He insisted that instead of calling for a reversal of the new policy, the lawmakers should have urged the President to further slash the tariff on imported vehicles.
The House had called on the government to ensure that the security agencies manned the land borders diligently to enforce the payment of import duty and levy and ensure that they are remitted to the national treasury as against enforcing the ban.
In one of its resolutions on the issue, the House further urged the government to install border security and surveillance equipment for effective monitoring to address the recurring menace of smuggling and ensure a maximum revenue generation on all cargo lawfully imported into the country not only vehicles.
The decision of the House follows a motion by Mr. Abdullahi Salame, All Progressives Congress lawmaker from Sokoto State.
This lawmaker had told his colleagues that the policy would not only worsen the hunger and insecurity in the land, but also lead to a massive loss of jobs
Salame, who led the debate on the motion, observed that corruption at the nation’s porous borders would increase as Customs personnel would seize the opportunity to divert revenue into private pockets.
He said emphatically:“The Federal Government would indeed lose revenue and Customs personnel will connive with smugglers to divert revenue. Car dealers will lose their businesses and this also implies that millions of Nigerians will lose their means of livelihood.
“The prices of imported vehicles will hit the rooftops in Nigeria, making fairly-used cars out of the reach of ordinary citizens”, Salame also argued.
“A similar policy in the case of rice importation has brought untold hardships on Nigerians as a 50kg-bag of rice now sells for between N20,000 and N23,000 as against the former N8,000 a few months ago,” he added.
Another member from Adamawa State, Mr. Sadiq Ibrahim, while supporting the motion, argued that it was within the powers of President Buhari to reverse the policy.
“I am addressing President Buhari. He should suspend the ban; there is no alternative. Why ban car importation through land borders when you have not provided other options for those in the business to survive?”, he questioned rhetorically.
“This policy will serve no useful purpose and there will be more problems than solutions to the hardship arising from our economic situation of today”, he also said.
Another APC member from Kwara State, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, however in his contribution to the debate suggested that the government should modify the policy to say that vehicles of certain ages should not be imported through the land borders.
Another APC member from Katsina State, Mr. Ahmed-Baba Kaita, who supported the ban, argued that Nigeria was losing more revenue compared to whatever benefits that could be derived from importing vehicles through the land borders.