lawmakers

By Andah John with agency report

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Nigeria’s House of Representatives has asked the Federal Government to suspend its ban on the importation of vehicles via land borders.

The ban, which covers all new and used vehicles, was announced earlier this week by the Nigeria Customs Service. It is expected to come into effect from January 1, 2017.

Lawmakers frown at policy

But the lawmakers have frowned at the new policy. And they have specifically advised President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently direct the Nigeria Customs to reverse it.

The country’s lower house believes that instead of enforcing a ban, government should ensure an improved security across Nigeria’s borders.

“The House further urges the government to install border security and surveillance equipment for effective monitoring to address the recurring menace of smuggling and ensure a maximum revenue generation on all lawfully imported goods,” the resolution stated.

More harm than good?

The decision followed the submission of an All Progressives Congress lawmaker from Sokoto State Abdullahi Salame, who informed the house that the policy could only worsen the “hunger and insecurity” in the land.

Salame said corruption at the borders would increase as Customs personnel would seize the opportunity to divert revenue into private pockets.

“The government will indeed lose revenue and Customs personnel will connive with smugglers to divert revenue. Car dealers will lose their business and this also implies that millions of Nigerians will lose their means of livelihood,” he stated.

According to Salame, prices of vehicles will hit the rooftops in Nigeria, making fairly-used cars out of the reach of ordinary citizens.

“A similar exercise in the case of importation of rice has brought untold hardship on Nigerians as a bag of rice now sells for between N20,000 and N23,000 as against N8,000 a few months ago,” he added.

Buhari asked to take action

A member from Adamawa State Sadiq Ibrahim called on Buhari to take action.

“I am addressing Buhari. He should suspend the ban; there is no alternative. Why ban car importation through land borders when you have not provided other options for those in the business to survive?

“This policy will serve no useful purpose and there will be more problems than solutions to the hardship arising from our economic situation of today.”

Another APC member from Kwara State, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, suggested that the government could modify the policy to reflect that vehicles of certain ages should not be imported through the land borders.

“The administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo had such a policy in place before. We can return to that policy or ensure its full implementation this time round, rather than a blanket ban,” Mohammed said.

Ban gets backing

But, another APC member from Katsina State, Mr. Ahmed-Baba Kaita, tried to rationalise the government’s action.

“So, we have a situation whereby these countries collect their duties, improve their economies, but the cars are coming to Nigeria duty-free.

”We have had instances where even state governments in Nigeria imported their vehicles through Benin Republic, paid the duty there, but would not pay in Nigeria.

“The policy may look harsh on the onset but in the long run, the country will be better off with it.”

But Kaita’s arguments was not enough to convince the majority of lawmakers as they voted in support of the passage of the motion, which was presided over by the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara.