As much as 300 cars make their way illegally into Nigeria at a go in the dead of the night with the active connivance of security operatives at the ever porous Idiroko land border in Ogun State, according to an impeccable source.
Chairman, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Idiroko border chapter, Timothy Abel, during an exclusive chat with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY, said car smuggling at Idiroko border has assumed a worrisome dimension and takes place mostly at night with the help of customs officers.
“These officers prefer to attend to smugglers than to attend to agents because they can get immediate money for their own pockets rather than fighting for the ones that will go to federal government purse,” Abel told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY.
He lamented that clearing agents operating at Idiroko are left with little to do as not just contraband but also dutiable goods are smuggled through the border.
The ANLCA Idiroko chapter chairman also blamed the high level of smuggled cars through the border on the high duty rates of cars which he said if reviewed downward would encourage honest vehicle clearance at the border.
He said the federal government would be the worse for it if it does not concede to reducing duty rates on vehicles as it will continue to lose revenue while car smuggling activities continue to thrive at the border with the numerous illegal routes that surround it.
“Most of the big cars that pass through that side are all passing through the bush. That is the reason why we ask the government to give us concession on the duties of these cars so that we can woo these people to patronize us at the chapter and pay a token to the government.
“Unlike Seme that is only covered with two routes, Idiroko is not like that. Idiroko’s porousity is too much because there are a lot of routes. We have been tackling the smugglers because they can penetrate through any of these routes unlike us that we like to do decent jobs,” he said.
When contacted, Public Relations Officer, Ogun Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Chike Ngige said the claim is false as security personnel are always manning the border post.
“That is not true. The security at the border is very high and customs are not the only ones there. We have other security agencies at the border,” he said.
He however acknowledged that smuggling activities cannot be totally eradicated at Idiroko border or at any other ports or land borders but can only be controlled.
“Smuggling is something that can never be wiped out anywhere in the world. Our job is to subject it to its barest minimal situation. Officers are not superhuman and there is no way you can use gun arbitrarily or overreact because these acts are carried out by the community. If we miss one, we can catch the rest but we cannot catch everything otherwise, people may die. Just three weeks ago, we lost an officer due to smugglers activities,” he said.
The annual demand of cars in Nigeria is 750,000 units while present local production capacity is 60,000 fully built units.
Only about 450,000 units are imported legitimately while the rest is smuggled into the country through the land borders to evade payment of Customs duty.
Experts believe that smuggling of cars will escalate this year with the increase in customs duty from 20 per cent to 70 per cent.
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