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Investigations have revealed that many importers who have begun vehicle importation procedure at many of the border points before the lapse of January 1 deadline set by the Federal Government on vehicle importation through the land border are beginning to panic due to fear of losing their consignment valued at millions of naira. This is even as the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) has insisted thatnly consignment declared in 2016 and their inward clearance procedure started, will be exempted.
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According to investigation by the Nigerian Tribune, many of the vehicles trapped at the border points are vehicles that have commenced Customs clearance procedure, but were unable to conclude due to the January 1, 2017 commencement of the imposition of the vehicle importation ban through the land borders.
Speaking to the Nigerian Tribune, an importer, Funsho Olajuwon, stated that he was yet to clear some of his vehicles even though he started declarations in 2016. According to him, “What will happen to my consignment, I really don’t know for now.
“I started my declaration in 2016, but could not conclude before the ban commencement. I have complained to Customs at the border, but they said they were waiting for orders from Abuja. “I just hope they grant waivers for people like us that started declarations in 2016.”
Also speaking to the Nigerian Tribune, the Chairman of the Seme chapter of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Lasisi Fanu, stated that many vehicle importations were trapped at the border because it was unclear if government would waive imports that began declaration in 2016.
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“Thousands of vehicles are trapped at the borders because some of our members who began cargo declaration in 2016 could not complete it before the lapse of the December 31, 2016 deadline set by government.
“Many of our members don’t even know if government will grant waivers for consignment declared in 2016. That is why we have many vehicles trapped at the border. We just hope government grants waivers so that some of our members who opened declaration forms in 2016 can have their vehicles exempted.”
The Public Relations Officer of the NCS, Seme Command, Mr Selechang Taupyen, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Badagry, that the service had to comply with government’s fiscal policy. Taupyen told NAN that officials of the command had been placed at strategic places to curb any form of smuggling of cars.
The chairman of ANLCA, Alhaji Bisiriyu Danu, said as of Friday, December 30, 2016, the Customs authorities asked the agents to stop payment of Customs duty on vehicles by 5.00 p.m. Danu said the association was not aware of any circular counter to the ban.
He said so many vehicles were not cleared by Customs agents as of this morning (January 3, 2017) trapped at the ports of neighbouring countries. The Customs agent said the association went into dialogue with some government representatives to grant a three-month grace period.
Danu said the grace period would enable ships carrying vehicles to berth for clearance before implementation of the ban. The Customs agent said the ban would render many car dealers around Badagry and environs idle and this could be a dangerous trend.
He said the enforcement of the policy would increase smuggling activities across the border. Danu said the policy would also increase unemployment among youths in the area. “The Seme border is extremely porous and the situation has been managed properly by Customs officials, but this policy is going to increase smuggling.
“All the unapproved routes would be exploited by smugglers. So smuggling would be on the rise with this policy that the government has put in place. “Also it would increase the rate of unemployment of youths in this area as many people rely on this as a means of livelihood.
“The government should consider all these factors and lift the ban of vehicles through the land borders,” he told NAN. A major stakeholder in Seme, Chief Sam Maduike, pleaded with the Federal Government to lift the ban. “The policy is going to bring untold hardship to the masses as the average Nigerians cannot afford to buy a brand new car.
“Also many people rely on buying used vehicles as their means of livelihood but this policy is just going to worsen the situation of things in the country. “The government should consider all these and ift the ban,” he said. A resident, Mr Tunde Apata, pleaded with the government to lift the ban.
“I helped people to buy cars from Cotonou and I have been doing that for several years. So, basically, this has been my only source of income. “With the ban, I do not know how I would cater for myself and family. I am doomed,” he said. Apata said the service was complying with the directive of the Federal Government that no vehicles should come through the border posts.
The president of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, Mr Lucky Amiwero, told NAN that the Federal Government should inaugurate a committee to look critically at the implications of the ban on vehicle imports. He said government should also look at the risk of lives of Customs officers because there would be increase in smuggling.
Amiwero said a question that should also be asked is “Are Nigerian ports friendly to accept vehicles?” He urged government to address the high cost of doing business in Nigerian ports. “Our drafts level should be increased to accommodate bigger ships carrying vehicles.
“The most important thing is for government to provide a way for ships to sail easily into Nigerian ports and reduce the costs of doing business at the ports,” Amiwero told NAN.
The Customs agent said that the shipping costs, the terminal operators handling costs and other costs make importation of vehicles into Nigerian ports most expensive compared to other ports in the sub-region. He said the port costs, the value of the vehicles and the procedures of clearance were very key.
Amiwero recalled that in 1998 and 1999, he agitated to bring back cargoes through the land borders because government was losing a lot of revenue to neighbouring ports.
“We have porous borders and we do not have the tool to check smuggling, ‘’ Amiwero said. He said operators of assembly plants should also be provided with the necessary conducive environment. The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) on Tuesday said it supported the ban.
The National Publicity Secretary of the association, Mr Stanley Ezenga, told NAN that the association‘s support was borne out of the economic benefits that the policy would bring to the nation. Ezenga said that this “is in terms of revenue and improved capacities in local automobile manufacturing”.
“We support the new policy to ban vehicles through the land borders in its entirety because of the obvious economic benefits to the nation. “First, activities are at their lowest ebb at the various ports due to diversion of cargoes to ports in neighbouring countries and we believe the policy will make our ports busy as vehicles will now have to come in through the ports.
“Also, there is the government‘s Auto-Policy in place designed to encourage local capacities in the manufacturing of vehicles. “So we believe the policy would prevent dumping and smuggling through better monitoring,” he told NAN. On whether the policy has taken off on Jan 1 planned date, Ezenga said he would need feed backs from his men around border posts to be sure.
“The National Assembly once called for the suspension of the policy but I do not know if the Federal Government is going ahead or backing off. “It is still very early in January. Our men are on the field and we will know with time if the policy is going ahead or not,” he told NAN.
When the Nigerian Tribune contacted the NCS spokesman, Wale Adeniyi, he stated via text, “there will be exemptions for importers who have lodged their declaration anytime in 2016, and their inward clearance procedure have begun.”
It will be recalled that the Federal Government, last year, stated that by January 1 2017, all vehicle importation through the land borders will be banned.
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