Several vehicles trapped at borders as ban on imports takes off

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has kicked off the implementation of the policy banning importation of vehicles through the land borders with many vehicles trapped at the borders.

The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Seme Chapter, however, disclosed said that so many vehicles were trapped at the border posts.

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 Federal Government had on Dec. 5 placed a ban on importation of used and new vehicles through land borders with effect from Jan. 1, 2017.

“The Federal Government has directed that importation of cars through the land borders should be banned and we are the agency that would enforce it so we have started with that.

“The border is close to the point of importation of cars and the command has placed its men and escorts at strategic places to ensure that there is no smuggling of cars through the border.

“We also have a good working relationship and synergy with other security agencies who assist us in enforcing this policy because we all work for the same government.

“We advise the public to abide by the government policy and if they must purchase a car then it should come through the sea port as any vehicle that tries to come through the land border would be seized and confiscated.

“Violators of the law would face the full wrath of the law,’’ he said.

Taupyen said that the policy was meant to encourage local production of vehicles in the country.

“The public must look at the long term benefit of this policy as this would help in encouraging local production of vehicles and it would boost the economy.”

The Chairman of ANLCA, Alhaji Bisiriyu Danu, said as at Friday, Dec. 30, 2016, the Customs Authorities asked the agents to stop payment of Customs duty on vehicles by 5 p.m.

Danu said the association was not aware of any circular counter to the ban.

He said that so many vehicles uncleared by Customs agents were as at this morning (Jan. 3, 2017) trapped at the ports of neighbouring countries.

The Customs agent said that 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 that the enforcement of the policy would increase smuggling activities across the border.

Danu said that 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 that government should also look at the risk of  lives of Customs officers because there would be increase in smuggling.

Amiwero said that 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 that 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 that 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.