The Federal Government last year announced a ban on the importation of vehicles through the nation’s land borders. This policy according to the government was informed by the huge loss of revenue to the nation at the borders and the need to stem such colossal revenue leakages. However, despite public opposition to the policy, but following government’s insistence, the new policy took effect on January 1, this year. Incidentally, less than two weeks the policy has been in operation, opposition to its continued operation has been very phenomenal. Surprisingly, besides the avalanche of opposition from the general public against the policy, operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service are known to be surreptitiously opposed to the new policy as well.
One disturbing fact that has however emerged since the commencement of the new policy is the lack or absence of broad consultation before the commencement of the directive by the government. Indeed, had government consulted widely and broadly, it may have taken a careful thought before approving the change, or the policy would have taken a different slant altogether.
Besides the anticipated loss of over 500,000 jobs by indigenous Nigerians who are engaged in the business of vehicle importation and handling services, it is also believed that the economy of border towns and villages that depend on the activities of vehicles importation would be adversely affected by the new policy. If spiritedly implemented, the policy will also lead to high cost of acquiring new vehicles by Nigerians who are already financially handicapped as a result of the harsh economic climate in the country. If the new policy therefore persists, it will be doubtful how many Nigerians that can afford to acquire even used cars. Therefore, contrary to the argument of government, it is doubtful if it is economically expedient to ban the importation of vehicles through the nation’s land borders given the ramifications of such a policy on the people and the economy.
It was perhaps based on the outcry of Nigerians that the Senate last week moved and debated a motion on the issue and at the end of it, passed a resolution calling on the Nigerian Customs Service to, “suspend further actions on its policy of an outright ban on the importation of vehicles through our land borders as from 1st January 2017,” as well as, “Urge the Federal Government to consider the regulation of vehicle importation by approving an entry point in each of the geopolitical zones that has international land borders in the country.”
No doubt, there is so much wisdom in the proposition of the lawmakers that rather than stop or suspend the importation of vehicles through our land borders as envisaged in the new policy, it would make better economic sense for government to allow the importation of vehicles through one entry border post in each of the geopolitical zones that has international land border in the country, since this will allow better monitoring and control by the Customs Service, as the land border posts will become fewer to handle by the Customs. This way also, the Customs will not be overwhelmed with the task of monitoring the many porous land borders that dot the nation’s various border land areas with our neighboring countries.
But perhaps a more permanent solution to the alternative use of the nation’s seaports by importers is for the Government to put in place import policies and operations that would make our various seaports more user friendly. This way, our ports would be attractive to importers to patronize without compulsion. No doubt, the reason why Nigeria importers prefer to patronize our neighbors’ seaports is because of the ease of doing businesses in those ports. The Nigerian government must draw serious lessons from this, particularly regarding the corrupt practices that hinder and delay the progress and movement of imported goods out of our seaports.
Even though the Federal Government is not bound by the resolution of the senate on this issue of the ban on the importation of vehicles through our land borders, it (government) must nevertheless draw some lessons from it. As representatives of the electorate, the lawmakers mirror the feelings of the people. On this issue, we urge the Federal Government to pay heed to the call to revisit the policy with a view to taking into consideration the concerns raised by the stakeholders and Nigerians generally.