*Says move is anti-people policy that’ll further impoverish Nigerians
By Henry Umoru & Godfrey Bivbere
ABUJA— THE Senate, yesterday, rejected the Federal Government’s ban on the importation of vehicles through the land borders in the country.
The Senate also called on the Customs Service to immediately suspend further action on its policy of an outright ban on the importation of vehicles through the country’s land borders as from January 1, 2017.
The Senate also directed its Committee on Customs and Excise to probe the circumstances that led to the sudden decision of the Federal Government on the issue of the importation of vehicles through the land borders.
According to the Senate, it became pertinent to stop the action of government because it was not only anti-people policy, but capable of further impoverishing Nigerians.
Decisions of the Senate were sequel to a motion by Senator Barau Jibrin (APC, Kano North.)
Even with the opposition to the policy, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (retd), has directed operatives of the Headquarters Compliance Team and Federal Operations Units of the Service to ensure strict implementation of the government policy on non importation of vehicles through the land border.
A statement by the acting Public Relations Officer of the Service, Jospeh Attah, noted that smugglers take advantage of the “porous border or compromise some Customs Officers and that of other agencies to short change the nation,” adding “Despite Nigeria’s bigger and more equipped port facilities, statistics has shown that more than 90 percent of vehicles imported to neighbouring countries are normally on transit to Nigeria.
“Though duty rates chargeable for motor vehicles at both land borders and seaports remain the same, importers of these vehicles exploit the informality of land border trade, since they are not usually manifested for Nigeria ports to either smuggle through the porous border or compromise some Customs officers and that of other agencies to short change the nation.”
In his remarks during plenary, Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to listen to the cries of Nigerians and rescind the decision.
Ekweremadu said: “From the contributions made, it is obvious that the policy is unpopular. We are representatives of the people and the people have spoken through us that they do not want this policy. I think government should listen to them.”
Earlier in his presentation, Senator Jibrin explained that the ban would lead to the loss of about 500,000 jobs by the people engaged in the business of vehicle importation and handling services in the border areas and around the country.
In his contribution, former Senate leader, Ali Ndume, said: “Let us not forget the fact that the constitution says the primary responsibility of government is for the security and welfare of the people. This policy will render so many small businesses useless. My constituents are disturbing me to ensure that this policy is reversed.”
Also contributing, Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West) said, “We are in a precarious situation in this country. We are at a time when people are not sure where the next meal will come from. This government needs to consider the welfare of the people. In enacting any policy, we must look at the social impacts.”