Port concessionaires have commended President Muhammadu Buhari for banning the importation of vehicles into the country through the land borders but have asked him to go a step further by scrapping the high import duty on automobiles.
The concessionaires, operating under the auspices of the Seaport Terminal Operators of Nigeria (STOAN), made their views known through their Chairman, Princess Vicky Haastrup, while reacting to the ban announced by the Federal Government on Monday.
She said the move, if well implemented by the Nigeria Customs Service, would reduce the smuggling of vehicles into Nigeria and revive the operations of Roll-On-Roll-Off (RORO) terminals in the country.
RORO terminals are specialised berths through which everything on wheels could be discharged from a ship.
Princess Haastrup asked the government to take a step further by scrapping the 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”, she said.
Haastrup added, “The reversal to the old tariff will serve as an incentive for Nigerians to import legitimately through the seaports and make appropriate payments to government. This will boost revenue collection by the Nigeria Customs Service. It will also lead to the return of lost jobs at the affected ports.
“We also appeal to Customs officers at the border posts to support the Federal Government and the NCS leadership by ensuring that no smuggled vehicle finds its way into the country through the land borders from 1st January 2017 when the new policy is expected to come into effect”.
Haastrup said since 2014 when the 70 per cent hike in the tariff of imported vehicles came into effect, Nigeria had lost 80 per cent of its vehicle cargo traffic to the ports of neighbouring countries.
“Since the high tariff was introduced, importers have resorted to landing their vehicles at the ports of neighbouring countries and smuggling them into Nigeria without paying appropriate duties to government. This amounted to huge revenue loss to Customs.
“The policy also led to loss of more 5,000 direct and indirect jobs at the affected port,” the STOAN Chairman said.