The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has kicked off the implementation of the policy banning importation of vehicles via land borders.
This follows the Federal Government’s directive that used and new vehicles should not be allowed into Nigeria through land borders with effect from January 1, 2017.
And following the implementation, many vehicles were said to be trapped at the border posts.
The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Seme Chapter, confirmed the development.
And the Public Relations Officer of the NCS, Seme Command, Selechang Taupyen, told the News Agency of Nigeria in Badagry that the service had to comply with government’s fiscal policy.
Taupyen told NAN that officials of the command had been placed at strategic places to curb any form of smuggling of cars.
“The border is close to the point of importation of cars and the command has placed its men and escorts at strategic places to ensure that there is no smuggling of cars through the border.
“We also have a good working relationship and synergy with other security agencies who assist us in enforcing this policy because we all work for the same government.
“We advise the public to abide by the government policy and if they must purchase a car then it should come through the sea port as any vehicle that tries to come through the land border would be seized and confiscated.
“Violators of the law would face the full wrath of the law,’’ he said.
Taupyen said that the policy was meant to encourage local production of vehicles in the country.
“The public must look at the long term benefit of this policy as this would help in encouraging local production of vehicles and it would boost the economy.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of ANLCA, Bisiriyu Danu, said as at Friday, Dec. 30, 2016, the Customs Authorities asked the agents to stop payment of Customs duty on vehicles by 5 p.m.
Danu said the association was not aware of any circular counter to the ban.
He said so many vehicles uncleared by Customs agents were as at this morning (Jan. 3, 2017) trapped at the ports of neighbouring countries.
The Customs agent further said the association went into dialogue with some government representatives to grant a three-month grace period.
Ban could be dangerous
Danu said the grace period would enable ships carrying vehicles to berth for clearance before implementation of the ban.
The Customs agent said the ban would render many car dealers around Badagry and environs idle and this could be a dangerous trend.
He said that the enforcement of the policy would increase smuggling activities across the border.
Danu said the policy would also increase unemployment among youths in the area.
“The Seme border is extremely porous and the situation has been managed properly by Customs officials but this policy is going to increase smuggling..
“All the unapproved routes would be exploited by smugglers. So smuggling would be on the rise with this policy that the government has put in place.
“Also it would increase the rate of unemployment of youths in this area as many people rely on this as a means of livelihood.
“The government should consider all these factors and lift the ban of vehicles through the land borders,” he told NAN.
A major stakeholder in Seme, Chief Sam Maduike, pleaded with the Federal Government to lift the ban.
“The policy is going to bring untold hardship to the masses as the average Nigerians cannot afford to buy a brand new car.
“Also many people rely on buying used vehicles as their means of livelihood but this policy is just going to worsen the situation of things in the country.
“The government should consider all these and ift the ban,” he said.
A resident, Mr Tunde Apata, also wants government to lift the ban.
“I helped people to buy cars from Cotonou and I have been doing that for several years. So, basically, this has been my only source of income.
“With the ban, I do not know how I would cater for myself and family. I am doomed,’’ he said.
Government urged to look at implications
The President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, Lucky Amiwero, told NAN that the Federal Government should inaugurate a committee to look critically at the implications of the ban on vehicle imports.
He said government should also look at the risk of lives of Customs officers because there would be increase in smuggling.