THE Federal Government recently banned the importation of vehicles through land borders in the country. According to the spokesman of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Mr. Wale Adeniyi, a Deputy Comptroller, the order takes effect from January 1, 2017 and covers all new and used vehicles.
From this date, all vehicle imports to Nigeria must be through the nation’s seaports only. The ban follows that of rice, whose imports to Nigeria have been banned since April 2016. All importers of vehicles through land borders have been requested to utilise the grace period of up till December 31, 2016 to clear the vehicles they imported through the ports of neigbouring countries.
Available data show that the Cotonou Port in Benin Republic, which has reportedly become the popular landing destination for vehicles imported for the Nigerian market, controls 63 percent while Nigerian ports control only 37 percent. It has also been reported that in the last three years, the NCS has lost N600 billion revenue due to it through the diversion of vehicle imports intended for the Nigerian market to the ports of neighbouring countries.
The National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC) has put the estimated annual imports of vehicles to the country at 400,000. Out of this, 100,000 are new vehicles while 300,000, valued at $3.45 billion, are used vehicles.
The ban on vehicle land imports is attracting mixed reactions from Nigerians. Some have condemned the move, while others hailed it. The House of Representatives has asked the government to put the ban on hold. It also advised the government to ensure that the law enforcement agencies, especially those working at the borders, are diligent in their duties by ensuring that import charges from the land borders are paid promptly to the government. The House also canvassed for the installation of surveillance equipment for effective monitoring and curtailment of smuggling.
The ban on importation of vehicles through land borders is bound to lead to a loss of jobs among those who depend on this business for their livelihood, even though it will create other categories of jobs at our seaports. It will, however, also lead to an increase in the cost of vehicles.
Coming at this period that the economy is in recession, this policy can be seen as contrary to the interest of ordinary Nigerians. It negates the reason for the existence of government, which is to promote the welfare and good of the people.
Instead of a rushed ban on vehicle imports through land borders, the government should first of all find out why Nigerians prefer to import vehicles through the ports of neigbouring countries. Perhaps, the ease of doing business in neighbouring countries’ ports and the lower tariffs charged at these ports make them more attractive to our importers.
Government should reform our ports and make it possible for an importer to clear his goods within 24 hours. Nigerian seaports are said to be among the most expensive to do business in the world. The long room in our ports is very long and the bureaucratic bottlenecks are frustrating. The delay and corruption in our ports are responsible for diversion of imports to Cotonou and other ports in West Africa.
Before the government tries to ban the importation of vehicles through our land borders, it should come out with reforms that will make our seaports friendly to importers. That many Nigerians prefer to import vehicles through neigbouring countries’ seaports is because of the ‘unfriendly’ nature of our own seaports and our excessively high import tariffs. Government should address these problems squarely, especially the high tariffs. This ban will likely not work. It will rather escalate the smuggling of old vehicles and inadvertently fuel more corruption at our land borders. The ban, in its entirety, sounds like a total ban on importation of cars.
Government should put the ban on hold until it improves the ease of doing business in our ports. There is the need to computerise our port operations and reduce the tariffs paid on imported fairly used vehicles. Besides, the government should take a comprehensive view of the Nigerian economy and design policies that will make life better for the people, and create job opportunities.