December 9, 2016

Suspend ban on vehicle imports through land borders, Reps tell FG


House of Representatives

By Emman Ovuakporie, Godwin Oritse & Johnbosco Agbakwuru

ABUJA—The House of Representatives, yesterday, asked the Federal Government to suspend the ban on importation of vehicles through land borders in Nigeria.

Consequently, the lawmakers, at plenary, mandated the Committees on Governmental Affairs and Customs and Excise to ensure implementation and report back to the House within six weeks for further legislative input.

This development was based on a motion, entitled ‘’Need to suspend The Ban On Importation of Vehicles Through Land Borders, promoted by Abdulahi Salame, APC, Sokoto.

Meantime, stakeholders in the maritime industry were divided on the issue, yesterday. While some supported the ban, others kicked against it.

Salame, in his presentation, argued that those making these policies have failed to patronise made-in-Nigeria goods, especially Nigerian assembled vehicles, which are, in any case unaffordable for 80 percent of Nigerians.

He said:  “The percentage of Nigerians who can afford cars has declined drastically, following the decline in the value of the Naira, rising inflation, unemployment and high cost of living that have bedeviled Nigeria where over 80 per cent of Nigerians live below $2 a day.

“The Federal Government has powers under Section 18 of the Customs and Excise Management Act to restrict the movement of goods into and out of Nigeria by land or inland waters and to appoint customs stations.

‘’However, similar exercise of such powers on rice importation through the land borders in April 2016, has occasioned untold hardship on Nigerians, as a bag of rice now sells for between N20,000 and N23,000, against N8,000 a few months ago.

“As it is now, the government has not put in place alternative measures to ensure that Nigerians will have access to cars since it is cheaper to buy cars from neighbouring countries and still generate revenue by ensuring that our borders are secured to prevent smuggling, and also that there will be no job losses.’’

Salame also expressed worry that “the ban will cause more harm than good as it will certainly lead to increase in smuggling,deprive poor Nigerians access to acquiring vehicles, skyrocket the prices of cars cleared at the Wharf, increase inflation and further mount pressure on the already weak naira and lead to idleness, insecurity and criminality at the border points.’’

Maritime stakeholders divided over policy

In the maritime industry, stakeholders were clearly divided on the issue. While some kicked against the House of Representatives’ directive to the Federal Government to rescind the decision on the ban of vehicles imported through land borders, others  welcomed the call to suspend the ban because it will not only affect revenue but also put the Customs under pressure to check smuggling.

Speaking to Vanguard, National President of the National Council of Managing Director of Licensed Customs Agents, NCMDLCA, Mr. Lucky Amiwero, said the government’s ban on importation of vehicles through land borders was wrong.

Amiwero said the borders were entry points for cargoes, adding that government loses a lot of revenue when the borders were closed.

He explained that despite the closure, quite a number of vehicles found their way into the country through smuggling.