Terminal operators commend FG, seek drop in 70% duty on vehicles
Barely less than 24 hours after the federal government through the leadership of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) announced ban on importation of vehicles via land borders, the Seaport Terminal Operators of Nigeria (STOAN) has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the gesture and asked the government to complement the ban with a corresponding review of duties paid on vehicles imported through the seaports.
Chairperson of the group, Princess Vicky Haastrup, while reacting to the ban said the move, if well implemented by the Nigeria Customs Service, will reduce the smuggling of vehicles into Nigeria and revive activities at Roll-On-Roll-Off (RORO) terminals in the country.
It would be recalled that RORO terminals are specialised port terminals that handle all types of vehicles, but in the last few years, operations have dropped to the lowest ebb due to the hike in duties payable on imported vehicles which was jerked up to 70 per cent by the NCS.
The high import duty regime was imposed on vehicles by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan since 2013.
A top member of NAGAFF who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent that “since 2014 when the 70% hike in the tariff of imported vehicles came into effect, Nigeria had lost 80% 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.
STOAN boss said “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% from the prohibitive 70% tariff imposed by the former administration.
“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.