Retired Customs Comptroller turn Senator, Ali Wakili vows to champion auto policy reversal

The Senator representing Bauchi South Senatorial District, Ali Wakili, has pledged to champion the reversal of the federal government automobile policy that led to increment in tariff on imported new and fairly used vehicles.

The Jonathan administration introduced the Nigeria Automotive Industry Development Plan in 2013 to promote local assembly of vehicles and limit importation of cars by raising tariff on them to as high as 70 per cent of vehicle cost.

The policy generated mixed reactions with commercial road transporters and some businesses questioning the policy while the government defended it; saying in 2014 that the implementation was already working positively for the country as some vehicle manufacturers had either started or stated their intentions to start assembling vehicles in the country.

During the run-up to the 2015 general elections, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, now Vice President, had promised that General Muhammadu Buhari would reverse the policy, which has led to an increase in the cost of both new and fairly used vehicles in the country, if elected.

However, Sen. Wakili said the hike in tariff on the second-hand cars will not only deny the country much needed revenue, but also emasculate the middle class.

The lawmaker, who is a retired Comptroller of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), said, “The new customs tariff on cars need to be reviewed downward because we need to re-establish the middle class in Nigeria.”

The first-time federal legislator and former Customs Area Controller of Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Seme and Tin Can Island Port Area Commands also called for a review of most of the laws being operated by the NCS, arguing that such laws are no longer in tune with modern economic realities.

He said he hopes to advance legislation that will better the operation of the customs and also help to re-establish the literally extinct middle class.

“The relativity on items often affects the implementation. Nobody wants to pay high taxes, because the higher the tax, the higher the potential of smugglers to indulge in smuggling.

“As a former Area Comptroller of Seme border, I have argued that the hiking of tariff on items does not help us. It takes away our attention from the anti-smuggling activities; we dissipate energy on running on one or two smugglers with the attendant risk of life on the smugglers and on our own personnel.”

Government should know that the average citizen cannot afford to buy a new car, whether it is being produced by only PAN or other manufacturers; rather they would want to buy used cars. If they must buy second-hand cars, then we ought to encourage them to take the normal routes, charge them medium rates that they can afford to pay, and no one would want to take the tortuous smuggling routes.

“If you are coming from the developed countries where you don’t need to have a car; where you can jump into the next train or pick a bus that is efficient and timely, you can afford to do without a car of your own.

“But as long as the public transportation system is faulty, and people cannot afford to buy new cars, they would rely on used cars and if you are exerting so much pressure on them in trying to own these so-called ‘tokunbo’ cars, they will circumvent the law.

“It will cost you so much man-hour, because you will not be able to control them. There are so many porous borders; once you try to block one, many others are created the next day; because of the leaky nature of our border system – from the bight of Badagry up to Bayelsa, you can always have a place to enter this country.

“Even if you are using modern communication technologies, or air-to-ground patrol of the borders, you cannot beat the potential smugglers at the various routes they use at a time. So the new customs tariff on cars need to be reviewed downward because we need to re-establish the middle class in Nigeria.”

 



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