The Nigerian importers who are the major players in the international trade have been groaning under the weight of the political atmosphere brought about by the 2015 general elections. Not only is the polity heated by the forth coming election, the fall in oil price and the devaluation of the naira have taken a negative toll on the dwindling purchasing power of consumers thereby having a rippling effect on importation.
Mr. Chris Osunkwo, the Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Tin Can Island Command said this during a media chat with MMS Plus last week even as he stated that it is not unusual.
He said the reason why people have not placed orders for new consignments is due to increase in exchange rate.
According to Mr. Osunkwo, the importer are really feeling pained, they are crying because something they used to buy at One dollar for instance will now increase to three dollars and by the time you get it and add other incidental charges at how much will you sell it and who is going to buy it? So, it has drastically affected international trade and particularly, the customs revenue generation efforts for the Federal Government.
Last December, we made N26 million and in January, like every January is a spill over, so it is expected to drop. This January, we made N21 million and naturally, it is in March before business will start to pick up again.
He stated that the elections have taken the shine off the maritime industry and everything is at a standstill.
In his words. “Cargoes are not coming in, and the importers have decided to leave their goods in the port for safety
rather than take them to the warehouse where you can never tell what will happen next. Before now, this would have caused congestion but it is not so.”
At the Kirikiri Lighter Terminal (KLT), the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the customs command, Ndidi Amadi maintained that the decrease in cargo throughput is an annual tradition which often takes place between January and March.
He however added that election was a contributory factor to the decline in cargo throughput in the port even as he stated that it did not change the status of business in the maritime sector.
Meanwhile, the Director General (DG) of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Mr. Joel Nwosu lamented the plight of members while insisting that business had declined by 50% compared to the same period in the previous year.
“I agree totally that the volume of importation has declined. In fact, it has dropped by 50% compared with this time last year as a result of the auto policy and exchange rate which is at N229 to a dollar. This has affected the level of importation generally because people can no longer source foreign currency at a reasonable rate.
Hence, importers are cutting down on the volume of imports compared to what they have been importing in the past while some have out rightly decided not to import at all. This has affected the standard of living of ANLCA members as some of them no longer go to work for lack of work to do,” he said.