Stories by Isaac Anumihe
As the December 31, 2016 deadline given to land border importers of vehicles expired last week, officials of Nigeria Customs Service (NSC) have tightened security along the corridors.
Speaking to Daily Sun, Customs Public Relations Officer, Seme Area Command, Mr Selechang Taupyen, said that his command has deployed more officers on patrol to ensure total enforcement of the order.
“We have two approved checkpoints where our men have tightened security. Besides, we have put more men on patrol to make sure the order is fully enforced from January 1, 2017,” he said.
Customs Area Controller of Seme Border, Mr Victor Dimka had earlier warned importers to utilise the three week-window given to them to import their vehicles because after the expiration of the period, vigilance at the border would be increased to ensure that no single vehicle is allowed into the country. He said that customs has enforced a total ban on rice at the border.
In response to this warning, Seme Border has recorded an unprecedented number of vehicle importation into the country. Between December 6 when the order was given and December 31, the customs recorded an average of 150 vehicles imported into the country daily as against 30 vehicles before the order.
Recall that on December 6, 2016, the spokesman of NCS, Mr Wale Adeniyi, in Abuja, announced the prohibition order, saying that the step was sequel to a presidential directive restricting all vehicle imports to Nigerian seaports only.
“The restriction on importation of vehicles follows that of rice, which imports have been banned through the land borders since April 2016. Importers of vehicles are requested to utilise the grace period till December 31, 2016 to clear their vehicle imports landed in neighbouring ports”, Adeniyi stated.
The policy which has a grace period of only one month, caught many importers unawares, prompting reactions from industry watchers, importers of the trade, agents and operators.
The terminal operators under the aegis of Seaport Operators of Nigeria (STOAN) immediately welcomed the decision, saying that the move will reduce the smuggling of vehicles into Nigeria. It will also revive the operations of Roll-On-Roll-Off (RORO) terminals in the country.
RORO terminals are specialised port terminals that handle all types of vehicles whose activities were whittled down by a high import duty regime imposed on vehicles by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2013.
“We are confident of the ability of President Muhammadu Buhari to turn the economy around. The earlier ban on importation of rice, and now of vehicles, through the land borders is a welcome development.
We are happy that the President has listened to our appeal to reverse incongruous policies inherited by his government from the former administration and which have deprived Nigerian ports of cargoes to the advantage of the ports of neighbouring countries.
“In addition to this ban through the land borders, we appeal to the President to return the import duties on vehicles to 20 per cent from the prohibitive 70 per cent tariff imposed by the former administration,” the chairman of terminal operators, Princess Vicky Haastrup said.
The freight forwarders under the aegis of Save Nigerian Freight Forwarders, hailed the policy, describing it as a timely intervention to save the RoRo companies whose business fortunes have dwindled.
The National Co-ordinator of the group, Chief Osita Patrick Chukwu, said that the decision of the government to ban the importation of all types of new and used vehicles through the land border was timely.
According to him, the ban will create jobs for Nigerians and revive some ports that are redundant. He said that those who bring vehicles from the land borders are saboteurs.
Similarly, the former Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers Council, Dr Kingsley Usoh, while commending the government on the policy, suggested that the government should crush vehicles that are older than seven years – whether they are brought in from the land or sea.
Another importer, Mr Eddy Akwaeze, pleaded for 90 days grace instead of one month because, according to him, some importers have already paid for the production of goods whose shipment will take longer time than one month. He warned that if the government does not extend the grace period, importers may have no option than to smuggle their goods into Nigeria.
“The Federal Government was supposed to give us at least 90 days grace because some people have paid for the production of goods. Sometimes, if you pay through Russia, it may have a lot of trans-shipments before it gets to this place. Because of that, we are really going to be having it rough because some of us who had paid before now have to pay for another document to be able to get that vehicle down to Nigeria or we will be forced to smuggle the goods into Nigeria which is not going to be in the interest of anybody. Again, the land border clearing of vehicles has been helping in the revenue of Seme. Forty per cent of revenue generated from Seme is from vehicle importation. What will happen if the amount is not there? Will they meet up the target? Is N1.2 billion revenue from Seme not big enough?. Again, Nigerian seaports are the worst seaports in the whole of West Africa. The cost of importation into Nigeria is over 8,000 euros while in Ghana you spend only 3,000 euros. In Benin, you spend 2,000 euros, in Togo, you spend 1,000 euros and in Nigeria you are talking of spending almost 10,000 euros simply because the government doesn’t care what happens to us. I import through Benin, I import through Nigeria. The difficulties we encounter importing through Nigeria are not there in other ports.
“My advice is for the Federal Government to give us at least, 90 days grace. Within that period, we must have cleared the backlog,” he pleaded.
Also, the co-ordinator, Trans-border Traders Association, Alhaji Mikky Okunola, described the policy as draconian, saying that it is intended to make the poor poorer and the rich richer. According to him, the policy will hike the transportation cost because the number of cars into Nigeria will be restricted.
“If the intention of government is to phase out tokunbo cars, how many people can afford to ride a good car in Nigeria? It means that the gap between the rich and the poor will become very glaring. From January, importation of cars will now be for the rich because the poor can no longer bring cars. Car importation will now be monopolised by the rich importers who will fix the car price to any amount.
From January, the majority of Nigerians will not afford the cost of transportation. Some of my members have paid money for the shipment of their cars and they have departed Europe. They are expecting their goods to land in Cotonou. How will it be possible for the cars to land in two weeks? . Maybe, all our members will have to go to Katsina to stay with the president. Right now, we have lost our jobs and we are waiting until when death will come” he lamented. ENDS
Architect emerges winner of Ships & Ports annual essay competition
By Samson Echenim
A young architect, Sarafadeen Mayowa Bello, has emerged best overall winner of the 2016 Ships & Ports Annual National Essay Competition.
Bello emerged ahead of six other winners who got the ACG Charles Edike Prize for Outstanding Essays and Princess Vicky Haastrup Prize for Research in the 10th edition of annual essay competition, with the topic, “Non-oil exports as panacea for economic recession.”
At a brief presentation ceremony held at the Ships & Ports headquarters in Lagos on Wednesday, Mayowa said he picked interest in the competition in 2013.
“I am overwhelmed. I picked interest in the competition in 2013 when I discovered it was held annually and so I started listening to Ships and Ports radio daily and also found the website very interesting, as it bears a lot of information on diverse topics. I get a lot of information from the website that helps me in my writing,” he said.
Other winners in the 2016 Ships & Ports Annual National Essay Competition include Bakare Moshood Oladejo, Daniel Philip Ayo, Nwoke Ifeoma Joy, Ogbagba Sunday, a student of Public Administration at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Abel Anna Ogechi, a Corps member in Akwa Ibom State, who all won the ACG Charles Edike Prize for Outstanding Essays, while Babatunde Omoju, a lecturer at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron, Akwa Ibom State, won the Princess Vicky Haastrup Prize for Research.
The Chief Executive Officer of Ships & Ports, Mr. Bolaji Akinola, said the essay was instituted to make young people pick interest in maritime business and to also contribute intellectually to the development of the maritime sector.
“We have done this for 10 years. We believe that Ships & Ports has a lot to do towards development of the maritime industry. Sadly government neither understands nor appreciates the potentials of the maritime industry.
“President Olusegun Obasanjo is the only president that understood and tried to reposition the industry. He is the only president that showed understanding of the importance of shipping and the larger maritime sector.”
“I hope the present government will take a cue from that administration to fast-track the development of the sector for the nation’s economic well being.
“I hope this present leadership means well for maritime, because the current minister has no development agenda other than to set revenue target. You don’t set revenue target for regulatory agencies. Now they are all talking revenue generation. This is abnormal. Regulation has been relegated to the background because of money and they are not even making the money. The Customs too has abandoned trade facilitation and is talking only money.
“Government is also killing the sector with bad policies. The national automotive policy and the policy on rice importation are some of the bad policies this government inherited from the past government and we expect this government to review them but it has not. The damage these policies are doing to our country is great.
“Former President Jonathan slammed 70 per cent tariff on imported vehicles and because of that importers use Cotonou Port because duty there is only 10 per cent and the vehicles are smuggled into Nigeria. Nigerian governments continue to make unfavourable policies that favour neighbouring countries and we create jobs for the Republic of Benin because their dockworkers do the discharge of the ships.
“Government should reduce the import duty and take it back to the 10 per cent it was. Vice President Osinbajo during the campaigns in Lagos promised that the APC government would review the auto policy but more that one year after nothing has been done.
“There is need to depoliticize appointment in the maritime industry,” he said.
He thanked Dangote Port Operation and the Nigeria Customs Service Zone A, Lagos for supporting the annual essay competition. He also admonished the winners in the essay competition to take interest in the maritime sector.
Also handy at the prize presentation ceremony was multiple award winning investigative journalist, Emmanuel Mayah who lauded the participants for their interest in national issues and charged them to keep contributing to national discourse.
“The fact that you participated leaves us with so much hope. Our reactions to important national issues have been so disheartening. Maritime is technical and the more we become aware of it the better for us as a nation. It is our duty to develop ourselves and benchmark what we do with what people do in developed nations.
“The fact that you took time to do research into this maritime issue is worthy. After oil, maritime is the next biggest income earner. A country like the Republic of Benin does mainly transshipment and they are building infrastructures with just that,” he said.
Trade facilitation: CG’s team seizes over N500m items in 6 months
THE newly-formed Comptroller General’s Compliance Team has seized over N500 million worth of items since its inception six months ago.
Speaking about the team, Lagos Zonal Commander, Chief Superintendent H. Bello, said the team was well prepared with all the logistics and human resources to carry out the functions assigned to it by the Comptroller General and will leave no stone unturned in that regard.
According to him, importers who play according to the rules should have no fear as the team is on ground to stamp out products that are either prohibited or injurious to the health of the citizens as well as Nigeria’s economy.
The team, he said, has since its establishment ensured that accurate duties are paid on goods being cleared at the various entry points, leading to a peak in the revenue of the various commands. Thus, enforcement stations like Seme/Badagry as well as Idiroko borders have experienced sharp increase in their monthly revenue to an average of N1 billion, as against N500 million previously recorded.
The team co-ordinated, Assistant Comptroller of Customs, Mr. M. I. Jalo, said that his team has been able to nip in the bud activities of smugglers who bring undocumented cargoes into the country. He said that the team was determined to encourage importers and ensure that the country is not made a dumping ground for fake products or contrabands.
“It has mopped up some of the smugglers’ warehouses in Lagos where smuggled bags of rice were deposited in large quantity after they were repacked with sacks” he said.
The new operation, he said, accounts for the less inflow of imported rice, which used to flood the Western borders of the country during Christmas and other festivals. Jalo said that foreign parboiled rice intercepted by the officers totalled 21,314 bags with Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N138,541,000. Also, about N40 million worth of poultry products have been seized.
The Assistant Comptroller said that the General’s Compliance Team made a striking seizure recently of three bullet-proof vehicles worth N120 million whose owners evaded duties outright. The vehicles, he said, include Mercedes G. Wagon (2015 model), Lexus 750 (2015 model) and Escalade (2015 model) as well. Other cargoes seized include second-hand clothing totalling 1,387 bales; 7,344 pieces of used tyres as well as large quantity of vegetable oil.
For effective policing of the nation against economic saboteurs, the Customs Comptroller General, Col. Hameed Ali, recently appointed six officers to ensure maximum efficiency and to improve on trade facilitation.
The appointees include Assistant Comptroller, M. I. Jalo, who is the co-ordinator; Chief Supt. Nwokocha, deputy, while Chief Supt. Bello is Zonal Commander for Lagos Zone. Sani A. A. is Sector Commander for Seme axis, Longji L. J. takes charge of Ogun axis while Shazin Z. M. is Sector Commander for Oyo axis.