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Ali, Customs boss

Customs losing N200b yearly to diversion of cargoes to Cotonou ports

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Before the placement of total ban on importation of cars via the land borders, the federal government has been losing over N200bn annually to the Port of Cotonou in Republic of Benin.

The key fact is that Nigerian importers are attracted to the Port of Cotonou because of lower customs duty on vehicles and other imports.

However, the trend is set to end by early next year as the ban will be effective within the period.

The amount, according to stakeholders represents the value of tariff that should have accrued to government through the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), if the vehicles were imported through Nigerian ports.

Nigerian Customs is statutorily responsible for collecting revenues for government through duties payable as well as guarding against smuggling activities.

Already, the Managing Director of PTML Terminal, Ascanio Russo, had expressed support for the ban on importation of vehicles through the land borders imposed recently by the Federal Government.

PTML is the leading dedicated Roll-On-Roll-Off (RORO) terminal in Nigeria, handling the largest volume of vehicles imported into the country. But the level of cargo throughput in the terminal had ebbed in the last couple of years due to the massive diversion to Cotonou ports.

Russo said the company’s operations were, however, negatively affected by the astronomical hike in the import duties of vehicles, leading to a loss of more than 80 per cent of its cargo volume.

It would be recalled that the hike in vehicles import duty from 10 per cent to 35 per cent and the imposition of an additional 35 per cent surcharge under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, led to the diversion of Nigerian-bound vehicles to ports of neighbouring countries and increased smuggling activities.

But in a statement, the PTML boss averred that “We fully support this ban, which we believe is going to halt the huge import of vehicles for the Nigerian market through the ports of neighbouring countries and the loss of revenues by the Federal Government, the Nigeria Customs Service and private operators”.

“We are confident and hopeful that the government may want to go a step further and review downward the level of duties applied on used vehicles to make them affordable for the Nigerian people.

In her response, the strong woman of the industry and chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STAON), Princess Vicky Haastrup, said, “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.”

Besides, the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, have assured that her agency is ready to handle the expected boom in terms of car imports as soon  the economy recovers from recession, saying “We are very ready to have seamless operations of increased traffic. Some of the traffic that we are seeing dwindling was the function of some of the government policies on importation of new cars. With this ban through the land borders, we will see increase ports activities and we have put in place mechanisms to ensure that the additional traffic will not form any bottleneck.


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