• 50% Nigerian bound vehicles smuggled through Cotonou
Four years after it was introduced by the then- President Goodluck Jonathan's administration in 2014, Managing Director of largest vehicle terminal in Nigeria, PTML Terminal, Mr. Ascanio Russo has said that the auto policy has not added any value to Nigerian economy.
Russo who spoke on Monday during a visit to his office by the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Hassan Bello, alleged that 50% of vehicles destined for Nigeria are first shipped to Cotonou port from where they are smuggled into Nigeria.
According to him, Nigerians can no longer afford to buy new vehicles because of the 35% duty and 35% levy slammed on vehicle imports, courtesy of the auto policy.
Russo lamented that today, most vehicle terminals are filled with accidented vehicles that have been ravaged by flood in Europe, while Luxury vehicles are smuggled through Cotonou port.
He also said that the non-compliance level at the port and high level of smuggling at the borders were fuelled by the auto policy.
"If you increase the rate of duty on vehicles overnight by 100 percent, no matter how much you claim to be compliant, there is no way you can afford to pay this amount of duties. This is why most of the vehicles are smuggled through neighboring ports", he told the Shippers Council boss.
He added that: "We also have Grimaldi Lines in different countries, we operate in Cotonou and we see what is happening there, we have the figures, so I can tell you that over 50% of vehicles destined for Nigeria and belongs to Nigeria are discharged in Cotonou port, why is that? It is because it is too expensive to clear these vehicles in Nigeria and the bottom line is that people cannot afford to pay this money"
"If we really want Nigerians to have a comfortable means of transportation, it is not even luxury vehicles, we are not talking about the Toyota Prado, the Land cruiser, Range Rover, we are talking about tokunbo vehicles, these are not luxury cars".
The PTML boss lamented that four years after the automotive policy, Nigerians are yet to be riding the much-expected made-in-Nigeria vehicles as promised by the Federal Government during the introduction of the automotive policy.
According to him, right now there is a huge leakage of revenue for the government because vehicles are going to neighboring countries and it is very frustrating because these vehicles are coming back to Nigeria.
Buttressing his point, Russo said: "Unfortunately, after the auto policy was introduced in 2014, this is four years down the line; I am yet to see thousands of cars assembled in Nigeria. The bottom line is not even the availability of the vehicles, it is the price, who can afford a made-in-Nigeria vehicle when it costs N10million, this is the reality"
"If you look around the port, what we are seeing now is large areas because of the recession, the level of import has gone down, five years ago, we see decent cars being imported here, seven years old cars, five years old cars, they are in good condition, now what you see is accidented cars, so most people now are buying accidented cars that have been ravaged by flood in the US"
"All the rubbish is coming through Nigeria while all the good vehicles which should pay much more duties are going through Cotonou and they are not paying anything", he lamented.
"So the Federal Government loses, Customs lose, we lose, NPA loses, NIMASA loses, Shippers’ Council loses, the whole country lose. Mostly it is the Nigerian people because these vehicles would be very expensive. This is an example of why there is a high level of non-compliance and cargoes are diverted to other ports", he stressed.