By Tordue Salem
ABUJAâ€”The Minister of State, Commerce and Industry, Theophilus Abah, the Director General, Nigerian Automotive Council (NAC), Gambo Yakubu, the representative of other manufacturing plants in Nigeria, Mr. Sani Hammadauda and other stakeholders yesterday demanded for an immediate increase in import tariff to keep Nigeriaâ€™s automobile sector competitive.
The Minister and others made the demand at the â€œAutomobile Assembly Plants Stakeholders Meetingâ€,Â by the Abass Braimah-led House of Representatives Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation.
The Minister of State for Commerce, in his contribution at the stakeholdersâ€™ meeting, regretted that unlike other serious countries, Nigeriaâ€™s import tariff was dismally and painfully low, thereby holding down the economy of the country.
â€œIndeed we have some challenges facing our manufacturers of automobiles in this Country. There is an unutilized capacity in the automobile sector. It is the responsibility of all of us to get this industry going. The industry has unutilized capacity because of the unfriendly environment for progress.
â€œ70 percent of our automobile needs can be met, if we support the sector. There is no way a Country can industrialise if its automobile industry is controlled by foreigners. High tariffs on fairly built units that are imported make local plants competitive. We need to begin to patronize these local automobiles. We need to patronize these people.
â€œThe issue of quality (of Nigerian vehicles) is assured, but the Government on its part, as you are aware is addressing one critical aspect of their operation, power, road infrastructure and water. The factors that have borne a lot of cost to them are addressedâ€, he said.
The DG, Nigerian Automotive Council, Mr. Gambo, recalled with regrets that former Minister of Finance, (Dr. Shamsudeen Usman), had at a Federal Executive Council meeting rejected a proposal from NAC and other stakeholders for an increased tariff.
According to him, a low tariff regime of just 15% from an earlier 30%, has led to series of automobile plant-closures in the Country, as foreign vehicles continued to flood the market, rendering â€œour automobile sector unable to competeâ€.
The Executive Director, Nigerian Automotive Manufacturers Association, Arthur Olisa Madueke, yesterday suggested the tariff on imported automobiles and parts to 40% or 35%.
Mr. Madueke regretted that cars made in the Country continued to suffer low or no patronage.
â€œThe problem of the automobile industry is low patronage, tariff differential. We must work together to build this industry. Our suggestion is that the minimum tariff on imports to this Country should be 35% or 40%. In Iran it is 72%, in Egypt it is 92% and in Thailand it 35%.
â€œWe are appealing to the National Assembly to work out an increased tariff regime, to at least 35%. The import tariff in Nigeria , remains one of the lowest in the developing world. The tariff should be used in this Country as an instrument to develop our economy, not necessarily to raise revenueâ€, he said.
The representative of Peugeot Automobile Nigeria (PAN), and representative of plant owners at the forum, Sani Hamadauda also added to the voices of increased import tariff regime.
Representative of the SGF, the Dg Bureau for Public Enterprises, and other stakeholders at the forum spoke in the same vein, calling for an immediate tariff regime increase.