President Muhammadu Buhari has been urged by the House of Representatives to suspend the ban on importation of new and used cars through land borders.
The ban that was announced on December 5, 2016 by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) was due to take off from January 1, 2017.
The lawmakers however said the policy was too harsh as it is bound to pile more economic miseries on the majority of Nigerians that are already groaning under the prevailing economic recession.
The decision of the lawmakers followed the adoption of a motion by Abdulahi Salame (APC, Sokoto) who noted that the percentage of Nigerians who can afford cars has declined drastically following the decline in the value of naira, inflation, unemployment and high cost of living that has bedeviled Nigeria where over 80 percent of the population live below $200 a day.
Salame noted that, “With its powers under Section 18 of the Customs and Excise Management Act, the government can restrict the movement of goods into and out of Nigeria by land or inland waters and to appoint customs stations, but similar exercise of such powers on rice importation through the land borders in April 2016, has led to untold hardships on Nigerians as a bag of rice now sells for between N20, 000 and N23,000 as against N8,000 few months ago.
“We are also aware that the government has not put in place alternative measures to ensure that Nigerians will have access to cars since it is cheaper to buy cars from neighbouring countries and still generate revenue by ensuring that our borders are secured to prevent smuggling and also that there will not be job losses.
“Meanwhile, some of those making these policies have failed to patronize made-in-Nigeria goods, especially Nigerian assembled vehicles which are, in any case unaffordable to over 80 percent of Nigerians who can only afford fairly used imported cars.
“It is of concern that despite the pitiable state of most Nigerians occasioned by unemployment, lack of funds for survival and high cost of living which has sent many to their early graves, the government is adopting a policy that will further increase the sufferings of the masses at this critical time the country is in recession.
“It is equally worrisome that the ban will cause more harm than good as it will certainly lead to increase in smuggling, deprive poor Nigerians of access to acquiring vehicles, skyrocket the price of cars cleared at the wharf, increase inflation and further mount pressure on the already weak naira and lead to idleness, insecurity and criminality at the border points”.
Lawmakers that spoke in favour of the motion noted that it is the masses that would be affected more by the new policy.
According to them, the reason put forward about payment of duties was not enough to punish the entire country because non-payment of duties was carried out with the active connivance of security officials at the borders.
The lawmakers also argued that the ban was against the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocols on movement of goods and services.
The lawmakers said to implement the policy at a period of recession amount to Nigerians paying for the irresponsibility of agencies that should collect port duties on imported cars.
The lawmakers that supported the policy however noted that most policies of the administration of President Buhari were aimed at correcting fundamental and structural anomalies inherent in the system.
While they regretted that policies of this administration were often misunderstood and attacked, the antagonists of the bill recalled that three decades ago, Nigeria was the hub of economic activities in the sub-region, an advantage that has now been eroded due to reckless importation of unnecessary goods and services.
According to the lawmakers, this has reflected in job loss, with Nigeria not only becoming a dumping ground but also losing its technological development potentials to her neighbours.
They noted that as long as the government refused to do what it supposed to do by taking hard decisions, the country will remain on the path that has taken Nigeria nowhere so far.
As part of their resolution, the lawmakers urged the Federal government to ensure that the law enforcement agencies, especially those working at the borders, are diligent in their duties by ensuring that import charges through the land borders are paid when due and remitted to the government.
The House also urged the Federal 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 lawmakers equally urged the Federal government to expand its plan on youths empowerment programs by developing skills acquisition centers in border areas so as to enable the youth to acquire skills necessary for the type of businesses that are being carried out in the border areas and also employ more people from those areas into the border security agencies as they have relevant experiences on how goods are being moved in and out of the country.
Committees on Governmental Affairs and Customs and Excise were mandated to ensure implementation of the resolutions and report back within six weeks for further legislative action.
The motion was unanimously adopted after it was put to a voice vote by the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara.
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