With barely three weeks to the implementation of the second phase of the automobile policy, clearing agents operating at the Port and Terminal Multi Services Limited (PTML) Customs Command, one of the major vehicular terminals at the Tin can Island Port have said that they may be forced to diversify to other sectors of the economy in order to make ends meet.
According to them, the 35 percent duty increase has already taking a toll on their business as they no longer make sufficient profit.
The agents told SHIPS& PORTS DAILY correspondent who went round the terminal last weekend that if the federal government insists on implementing the 35 percent levy on imported used vehicles by July 1, after it hurriedly commence implementation of the 35 percent duty, they would have to look elsewhere for jobs to do.
One of the agents, Azubuike Innocent who said he has spent only 4 years in the clearing job said if the 35 percent levy eventually takes place in July; he will seek other job.
He expressed concern that when the full implementation of the policy commences, the terminal will be only be reduced to a grave yard as many importers will now divert their cargoes through neighbouring port of Cotonou.
“If the policy will eventually take effect, I will start looking for a white collar job because this place will be a graveyard because if we call our importers and they refuse importing through Nigerian port, how can we survive? How can even the command generate money?” he asked.
Another clearing agent, Felix Chukwunonso, said unlike before when agents make lot of profit from the job, they hardly get any profit now since the tariff increase.
“I am looking forward to diversify. I am no longer comfortable with the way things are moving in the industry anymore because there is no interest anymore. Formerly, if you do a job worth of N350 to 400,000, you will be looking forward to have at least N20 to 50,000 as profit but now because of the policy, you are not even looking forward to have N10, 000. So tell me how the common agent can afford to sustain their daily expenses,” he said.
However, Chairman, Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Electoral Committee, Okey Nerus advised that agents should not be overwhelmed by the vehicle tariff hike.
“Even if it becomes so pressing, most people will want to diversify like going into other business but the truth is that if you are grounded, I don’t see this system consuming people but all they need to do is once there is a change, they should key into the trend because life is dynamic. But for me, with or without clearing, I believe a professional will always survive,” he said.
He said he is optimistic that the Federal Government will revisit the policy considering the huge revenue loss the nation will suffer if importers divert their consignments to the ports of neighboring countries.
“By the time government begins to feel the effect of the auto policy in terms of revenue drop and fueling the pocket of neighboring ports and boosting their economy; I am sure the government will want to revisit the policy and come up with a more friendly tariff regime because if they consider the huge revenue loss, I don’t think it is something government will want to contend with for too long,” he said.