Bolaji Abimbola (Stakeholder)
Yes I think so; at least this is reflective in the earnings of the Nigeria Custom Service. However, the issue is not really about importing through the land or the sea. The issue is to have some levels of control over the standards set for importation of fairly used cars which should not be beyond certain number of years and also to be able to ensure that the right duties are paid into the coffers of the government. The land boarders are too porous and many and a lot of corruption takes place there daily. The government may consider relaxing the rule in the future for importers willing to pay the duty and comply with all laid down rules.
Chukwuka Ani Agubamah (President, NAFFAC)
Indeed, for one thing, it has dwindled vehicles clearing activities and income of our colleagues in the industry. On the other hand, such vehicles, on unproven assumption, have entered through the approved borders (the seaports) and increased the activities and income of our colleagues.
Has there been increased ports congestion attributed to increased vehicle imports attributable to such vehicles diverted from Cotonou? In any case, the loss of Benin, Niger, and others have become a gain to our shipping lines and terminal operators too. This may not be true assumption because those vehicles in Cotonou port complex and vehicle market have importers who are not importers resident in Nigeria or are Nigerian citizens or businesses. So the economic losses of Benin can only be a gain to Nigeria if their importers diverted their imports to Nigerian seaports. Only a detailed research can determine whether such diversion has occurred. Only Customs can tell through their statistics whether the prohibition has reduced or increased smuggling of vehicles through the land borders. For certain, the revenue collected at Seme, Idiroko, and so on will reduce drastically. The effect of exchange rates aside, has there been an increase in prices of cars that can be attributed to the prohibition? I do not think prices have been affected for the simple reason that such car imports from Cotonou may not account for more than 10% to 15 % of car imports into Nigeria.
Dr. Frank Ukor (President, AREFFN)
It has not helped much. You do not isolate the economy with just the amount of revenue that accrues to the government from imports. Look at the totality of ingredients that make up the economy; the percentage of employed Nigerians, revenue from imports and exports and so on. By the ban of vehicle imports through the land borders, government has put a good number of Nigerians who depend on vehicle imports through the land borders out of business and launched them into the already saturated unemployed stratum in the society. The result is increase in the number of social miscreants who become a threat to both you and I. Have you been to Seme and Idiroko borders recently? They are almost ghost towns. The level of economic activities is less than 10% of what it used to be.
Honestly, I think government should take a second look at that policy again. Benin Republic's economy depends to a large extent on revenues that accrue from imports from Nigeria through their ports. We as a big brother to our less endowed neighbour should in some way support them, because Benin Port provides a cushion for business men and women who are badly affected by government's hard economic policies.
Very soon we shall witness a mass exodus of importers to Benin Republic because of the adverse policy on palletisation. Every business man wants to make profit maximally and exploits every avenue that ensures him maximum benefit on investment.
Let government increase its anti-smuggling enforcement and increase the working conditions of its agents so as to discourage them from aiding and abetting smuggling activities across the borders.
Nichodemus Odollo (Trustee, Shippers Association)
The ban has not and will not help the Nigerian economy. Automatically, the ban has helped to increase vehicle import through the seaports, but that is not 100% of what comes through the border, maybe 30% of it were shipped to Nigerian ports.
I am advocating for the shippers that the ban be lifted, as you are aware that the cost of doing business in Nigeria is too high compared to other West African countries.
The ban on vehicles from land borders has not helped the economy in anyway; it has only increased the amount of vehicle that is being brought in through illegal routes to avoid duty payments.
What I expect the government to do is open the borders, tackle loopholes emanating from the incompetence of the border officers which has allowed corruption to thrive, leading to loss of revenue. Government should set up new anti-smuggling laws or review the old ones, make it less attractive for smugglers.
If the government is trying to promote our made-in-Nigeria products, then the government should put the right things in place for us to grow productively.
Dr Abiodun Frank (IFFA)
Yes, the activities in the ports have increased since the ban on land importation, you can see congestion everywhere. When they started people felt it would not work, but you can see it is working and I think what the government have done is that they have saved the lives of so many people that would have bought those cars. You see some people will be going on the road with their family and customs will intercept and seize the vehicle and from there, they will start looking for how to complete their journey. They will start the whole process again as if you are clearing your car for the first time. So I believe that if we can make up our mind to support the government, we will move higher.
Stanley Ezenga (NAGAFF)
Nigeria is an importing nation and when it comes to automobiles we don’t produce anyone here in Nigeria and the PAN and Volkswagen of Nigeria since their exit we have not had any automobile assembly plant in Nigeria apart from Innoson that just came up. So all vehicles we are using are imported and having closed the borders, it has not stopped Nigerians from importing. If we are not importing through our land borders we are importing through the seaports and if you look at the PTML and Five Star Logistics who are the major ports through which cars come into the country, you will notice that the turnaround has increased. So our ports have actually increased the volume of cargoes have increased in our ports.
Obviously it has increased activities in the ports, cars have been coming in through the seaports and people are really keying into that idea.