Aganga: No going back on auto policy

The Minister of Investments, Trade and Industry, Olusegun Aganga, has defended the newly introduced national automotive policy of the Federal Government.

Speaking in London last Monday at a seminar on “Business in Nigeria” organised by the Financial Times and the Nigeria Customs Service in London, Aganga said the policy has attracted 14 Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to the country.

He said Nissan, Peugeot, Hyundai, Toyota and ten others will begin to roll out vehicles assembled in Nigeria before the end of this year.

He said the auto policy aims to discourage the importation of vehicles into Nigeria and encourage local assembly and production.

Under the new policy, import duty on cars was increased to 35% with additional levy of 35% as against 10% under the previous regime.

Aganga also commended the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Dikko Abdullahi, for embarking on reforms of the service.

He said the NCS management should continue to lay emphasis on trade facilitation and promote trade in the country.

Speaking earlier at the event, Abdullahi said the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) regime introduced by his management team is aimed at facilitating trade in Nigeria.

He said PAAR allows for pre-arrival documentations and clearance of goods into Nigerian ports.

He said, “The launch of PAAR has helped to build stronger relationship with the business sector. By its configuration, importers and operators who have demonstrated high level of integrity in their declarations are flagged.

“To encourage them, 175 of them have been admitted into a new Fast Track system. These companies now enjoy special concessions like blue lane selection, inspection at owners premises and exclusive membership of the Customs Compliance Ambassadors Group.”

Abdullahi said the NCS has attained a high level of modernization enough to “assure existing and potential investors in Nigeria, that we are indeed ready for business.”

He also said that the Nigeria Customs Service has successfully implemented a critical reform programme and repositioned itself for trade facilitation.

“As we all know, the growth of trade is critical to boosting economic development and poverty alleviation in  developing economies. Its potential  for job creation makes it a strategic component of President Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda in Nigeria.

“As a major regulatory agency of Government, Nigeria Customs Service therefore plays a very active role in stimulating the growth of trade in Nigeria and creating the conducive atmosphere necessary for investment in flow,” he stated.

He said the foundation for the giant strides being recorded in NCS was laid in 2009 when the journey towards its modernization started.

He said, “It all started during the days of Dr. Aganga as Minister of Finance and chairman of the Customs Board. With his clear understanding that a modern Customs Administration is necessary for economic growth, he helped to lay a strong foundation for the reforms that re-positioned Customs in Nigeria.

“We were actually at a cross road in 2009 with a workforce that was highly demoralized, poorly remunerated and ill-equipped. We embarked on a  6-point Agenda of action to prepare the Customs for a full takeover of international Trade Management from Inspection Companies in line with the provisions of the Bali Agreement on Trade Facilitation.

“The plan addressed the issue of capacity building for officers and men, improving the welfare of the workforce, automation of processes and system upgrade, building integrity and transparency into our system, partnerships with other Customs administrations and the Private sector, and a communication and outreach program for active stakeholder engagement.”

He said NCS now provides timely, authoritative and accurate information about Nigerian trade with the rest of the world through the Nigerian Trade Portal.

The interactive portal, he said, offers online advisory related to Customs tariff classification and valuation, tax base, Nigerian regulatory agencies,  customs brokers, currency conversion tools and lots more.

Various speakers at the event commended the NCS management for the giant strides recorded in the Service over the past four years and introduction of the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR).

Meanwhile, the Federal Government on Tuesday said there was no going back on the July 1, 2014 deadline set for the commencement of the 70 per cent tariff on imported new cars.

It, therefore, dismissed the report of a possible extension of the deadline to January 1 next year.

It said only the implementation of the 35 per cent levy on imported used cars would be delayed till the end of the year.

A statement by the National Automotive Council said the July 1 date for new cars “remains sacrosanct and there is no intention whatsoever to subvert or postpone the auto policy.”

The statement, which was entitled: ‘FG retains July 1, 2014 date for full implementation of Nigerian Automotive Industry Development Plan’, was signed by the Director, Policy and Planning, NAC, Mr. Luqman Mamudu.

In November 2013, the Federal Government had raised the duty and levy payable on imported new and used cars from 20 per cent to 70 per cent. The policy was aimed at encouraging local production of new vehicles as zero per cent was placed on the completely knocked down units required by the local assembly plants.

The government had earlier fixed April 1 for the implementation of the new tariff on both classes of imported vehicles, but later decided to phase the implementation of the policy.

Already, the first phase of the policy involving 35 per cent duty increase has come into effect. The second phase of 35 per cent increase in levy is expected to commence on July 1, 2014.

But there were unconfirmed reports on Monday that the government was considering pushing the commencement date to January next year.

The NAC, however, said in the statement that “the implementation of the NAIDP, as published in the Federal Government Official Gazette No. 33 of January, 2014, is still on course.