By Bose Adelaja
Chairman, Association of Motor Dealers of Nigeria (AMDON), Lagos State and President-General United Berger Association, Apapa, Don Nnadiekwe, in this interview, speaks on the total closure of Nigeria’s borders, especially the clampdown on car dealers by Nigeria Customs Service, NCS.
What is your view on the ongoing clampdown on car dealers by the Nigeria Customs Service?
The country is tensed up now and there is restriction at the borders. I just wonder why we should be talking about border closure when the Comptroller-General of Customs and his aides are at work and goods and services are expected to pass through various gatekeepers. Are they telling us that vehicles have wings or are they invisible to the extent that they fly into car parks unhindered without the knowledge of NCS?
I cannot reconcile the border closure with the ongoing clampdown. As far as I am concerned, every vehicle under my jurisdiction is duly registered. That is why my members are not panicking on hearing that there is a clampdown on car dealers. We have warned them not to buy or sell vehicles that are not duly registered.
What are the measures taken to ensure this?
Nobody should be spared for selling or buying unduly registered vehicles because we have told our members to steer clear of illegality. We warned them against evasion of import duties and anybody found culpable should be dealt with. Part of the measures taken is the introduction of a fine of N100,000 or expulsion of erring members. We don’t expect a right-thinking person to buy or sell unduly registered vehicles and anybody who does that should be made to face the consequence.
This is an organised market and before vehicles are brought for sale, proper documentation of such vehicles is a must so that our names are not dragged in the mud.
What is the level of compliance?
As far as I am concerned, the legitimate vehicle dealers are complying with the rules but some dealers make use of any available space to park vehicles and mount gallons or plastics on them to indicate the vehicles are for sale. That is why fairly used cars litter the streets of Lagos because such vehicles are not handed over to legitimate vehicle dealers for business transactions and this is one of the factors responsible for the perennial gridlock in some parts of Lagos.
What are you doing to checkmate this?
In the last three years, the leadership of the Lagos State branch of this association has been sensitizing our members to ensure total compliance because ignorance is not an excuse. Also, we have adhered to the rules of Nigeria Customs Service and that is why our members are not afraid of the ongoing clampdown. We were not informed about the exercise before NCS commenced. We were supposed to be informed before the commencement of the exercise and this makes it look strange to our members.
I think the government should have a rethink because the situation in the country does not warrant a clampdown. Already, Nigerians are paying through their nose on house rent, electricity bill, shop and business permit among others. If the government should be tough on various businesses, many people would be sent out of business. You are creating more problems than solving them. Ideally, how many people are they going to govern in an unfavourable atmosphere?
Do you think the arrest of vehicle dealers in hotels is the best way to ensure that car dealers pay vehicle duties?
How can somebody who lodges in a hotel be asked to come and identify certain vehicles? This sounds like a rumour but I don’t think it is the best way to go about their duties.
Legitimate car dealers do not evade duties because their integrity is at stake. However, the government should review and regularise the duties because this will increase the prices of vehicles and reduce patronage. The government should avoid all avenues that will make car dealers think about cutting corners.
Our association has an articulate leader at the national level that does not waste time to discipline erring members. I believe that before certain measures are introduced by the government, those who are concerned should be informed to avoid non-compliance. The government ought to have sensitised car dealers to achieve its objectives. What the government is doing would only increase hardship for the citizens. Every policy should have a human face but this one is unfriendly.
Before fighting a crime, its root cause should be identified. Unfortunately, the government does not see things from this perspective. There are so many unemployed youths in the country that ought to have been engaged by the government but it is worrisome to see our youths everywhere without hope of survival.
Do you support border restriction in the South alone?
How many Nigerians can afford to buy a bag of rice at the rate of N25,000 a bag? I am worried that Nigerians are dying in silence because things are getting out of hand, I weep for Nigerians because we are caged.
I have been in this business for more than 36 years and my advice is that the government should fraternize with car dealers and inform them before clamping down on their businesses. The Comptroller-General of Customs is doing well but the sudden border restriction is unhealthy for the citizenry and there should be adequate communication before steps that will affect the citizenry are taken.
As far as I am concerned, the border restriction does not hurt the legitimate vehicle dealers because we don’t sell contraband vehicles. However, the import duties on vehicles should be reduced so that the prices of vehicles are reduced.