Land Border Vehicle Import Ban: The Sense And Senseless

Land Border Vehicle Import Ban: The Sense And Senseless As part of government’s effort towards strengthening the transportation sector and enhancing security, the Federal Government of Nigeria has placed a ban on the importation of automobiles through the land borders with effect from January 1, 2017; alternatively all importation of automobiles would have to be done via the sea ports.

This recent announcement by the Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Mr. Wale Adeniyi has sparked uproar amongst several stakeholders as some have lampooned the policy even as others still commended it.

The emergence of the policy is said to be geared towards curbing smuggling, ensuring that the accurate Customs duties are paid, as well as fostering the growth of the automobile industry in Nigeria, especially the assembling plants.

According to Mr. Wale, “the ban on importation of vehicles into Nigeria through the land borders by the Federal Government covers all new and used vehicles coming into the country with immediate effect from 1st January, 2017”.

Although one of the fears of this new policy is that the level of importation would drop, Nigeria’s President, Mohammadu Buhari has assured Nigerians during the presentation of 2017 budget that his administration was determined to ensure a departure from dependence on imported goods with more emphasis on locally made products.

Buhari also called for the change in habits from import dependency in order to change Nigeria, however, it is also pertinent to note that the standard of living of Nigerians hinges on the development and efficiency of the nation’s transport system and the emergence of the new policy could lead to increase in the cost of transportation as most of the private and commercial vehicles utilized in the country are imported.

As this issue continues to stir conflicting views in the nation, MMS Plus reached out to several stakeholders to get their views on this policy.

Speaking with our correspondence, the Director General of the National Automotive Council (NAC), Mr. Aminu Jalal said that the ban was a commendable move by the Federal Government as he believes that this would reduce the risks of accidents associated with the use of unstable vehicles by motorists.

“If this policy is properly implemented, it will completely eradicate the use of substandard vehicles coming into the country through the land borders as a result of rampant smuggling” Jalal said.

He equally commended the NCS for initiating the policy, as he posited that the new policy would ensure that the government gets the exact duty accruable as Customs duty, hence increasing the revenue generated by the transportation sector.

However, he noted that the nation was also taking a good decision in ensuring that the local automobile industry is strengthened especially those specialized in assembling and production of automobiles.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has asked the Federal Government to suspend its new policy of banning the importation of vehicles through land borders.

Instead of enforcing a ban, the House called on the government to ensure that security agencies manned the land borders diligently to enforce the payment of import duties and ensure the remittance of same to the treasury.

“The House further urges the government to install border security and surveillance equipment for effective monitoring to address the recurring menace of smuggling and ensure a maximum revenue generation on all lawfully-imported goods,” the resolution stated.

The decision came after an All Progressives Congress lawmaker from Sokoto State, Mr. Abdullahi Salame, informed members that the policy could only worsen the “hunger and insecurity” in the land, and cause job losses. Salame said corruption at the borders would increase as Customs personnel would seize the opportunity to divert revenue into private pockets.

“The government will indeed lose revenue and Customs personnel will connive with smugglers to divert revenue. Car dealers will lose their business and this also implies that millions of Nigerians will lose their means of livelihood,” he stated.

However, the Chairman, Association of Motor Dealers in Lagos State, President of United Bergers Motors, Don Metche Nnadiekwe told MMS Plus that the policy will not be successful.

He said that the government did not consult with the relevant stakeholders before introducing the policy and posited that the policy was done without thinking about the negative effect it would have on the populace.

According to Metche, poverty alleviation ought to be a very important agenda for the government just as it was focused on reduction of crime and smuggling. He asserted the government should consider the other employment opportunities for thousands of panel-beaters, the mechanics, the spare-parts dealers etc., which will suffer as a result of the policy.

“Thousands of panel-beaters, mechanics and the spare-parts dealers depend on these “tokunbo” vehicles for survival. If these people are not taken into consideration, this policy becomes counterproductive, hence it will encourage smuggling the more”, Don Metche said.

Meanwhile, another freight forwarding veteran who pleaded anonymity said that this policy would lead to further corruption by Customs officials who would conveniently exploit defaulters that prefer using the land borders rather than the expensive seaports.

According to him, the ban should be frowned at because it only shows that Nigerian leaders are irresponsible and lack the will to proffer solutions to trending issues affecting the nation.

”The government is simply telling us that Nigerian land borders are porous and there is nothing they can do about it. This is gross irresponsibility on the part of the government”, the aggrieved freight forwarder said.

He also added that with the implementation of this policy, the gridlock experienced in the Apapa would worsen.

“All these complexities are not what we need right now , the government should rather come up with a plan to tighten up the security at the land borders or prepare the routes that lead in and out of the seaports for easy accessibility. Customs duties on importation of these automobile goods should also be reduced drastically for the average Nigerians; unless the government is trying to tell us that only the rich should import and drive cars in the country”, he said.

Some of the gains of this policy may include curbing the practices of ship to ship transfer, where vessels carrying cargo destined for Nigeria but routed through to the ports of neighbouring countries before being smuggled through the land borders into the country and the policy may increase the patronage of local assemblers like Innoson motors, Peugeot Nigeria, etc., however, it should also be noted that it would increase the cost of transportation which would further dampen the standard of living for Nigerians as most of the “tokunbo” vehicles utilized for transportation are imported via the land border.

The federal government should focus on beefing up the security at land border posts in order to curb smuggling. Why can’t the government figure out the reasons why such vehicles are imported through neighbouring ports when their final destination is Nigeria? If the government can figure out these problems and address them, perhaps it may be needless to go ahead with the ban.

As the amiable Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello likes to illustrate, “Molue vehicles were not banned from the Lagos roads, the government only embraced innovation and the archaic system couldn’t stand the competition from the modern Lag BRT buses”

President Buhari has said that the true drivers of the country’s economic future were farmers, small and medium sized manufacturers, agro-allied businesses, dressmakers, entertainers and technology start-ups; but he should also be aware that the cost all these products and services are always affected by increase in transportation.

A similar restriction exercise in the case of importation of rice through the land borders began in April 2016 and it has brought untold hardship on Nigerians as a bag of rice now sells for between N20,000 and N23,000 as against N9,000- N13,000 prior to the ban.

By Frank Omatseye

Check Also

Dr Ajani: Reanimating Old ‘Super- Permanent Secretary’ Spirit In Civil Service

By Kingsley ‘Anaroke Before the Nigeria civil war erupted in 1966, there was a group …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

× Get News Alert