Haastrup urges FG to review rice, auto policies

The Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STAON), Princess (Dr.) Vicky Haastrup has asked the Federal Government to review its import policies on rice and vehicles.

Speaking in her office recently, the STOAN Chairman said the call has become necessary because the policies were fuelling smuggling into Nigeria.

She said, “There is no need to place any restrictions on the importation of rice into the country as it does not make any economic sense to do so.

“It is common knowledge that neighbouring countries such as the Republic of Benin and Togo rather than Nigeria are the ones benefitting from the restrictions on the importation of rice into the country.

“Since local rice producers cannot meet the present demand for rice consumption which is 1.7 million metric tons per annum, it makes no sense to restrict the importation of the commodity.

“I agree that we must look inwards as a nation but it has to be properly planned. It has to be gradual so that we do not lose the revenue accruing from import duty on rice to the ports located in our neighbouring countries.

“As I speak to you, all the rice imported into the Republic of Benin and Togo end up in the Nigerian market as a result of the porosity of our borders. Even if we keep security operatives at the land borders 24 hours, smugglers will still bring in the rice into Nigeria through the numerous illegal routes all over the place. We should not deceive ourselves. We cannot be losing huge revenues while our neighbours are gaining.”

On the National Automotive Policy which was introduced by the former administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Haastrup said it had led to the near collapse of roll-on-roll-off terminals operating in the country.

Haastrup, who is also the Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of ENL Consortium – operators of Terminals A and B of the Lagos Port Complex Apapa – said while the policy is not entirely bad, its implementation had been unnecessarily hasty.

“The auto policy of the Federal Government of Nigeria is good. It is a good policy because over time it will help Nigeria and Nigerians to hold their own. It will also arrest capital flight and provide employment opportunities for our teeming youths presently roaming the streets for non-existent jobs.

“However, the implementation of the policy ought to be in phases and gradual. This is due to the fact that there are many things we ought to put in place before we start the implementation of the policy.

“For instance, we need to put a structure in place. We need to have the infrastructural facilities on ground. We need a robust steel industry. We need to have regular electricity supply. This is because if you buy diesel at the prevailing price to power a generator for the production of a car, by the time you add other variables, the cost will be so high that it would be beyond the reach of an average Nigerian. The cost of the locally produced vehicles would be far ahead of the ones produced overseas. At the end of the day, the essence of the auto policy will be defeated,” she added.

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