Importers divert 50% Nigeria-bound vehicles to Cotonou

From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos
Faulty automotive policy has forced over 50 per cent of Nigeria-bound vessels laden with vehicles to Benin Republic, where they are discharged at the Port of Cotonou to avoid high tariff, the Managing Director of PTML Terminal, Ascanio Russo, has said.
Russo told the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippersa�� Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello, who was on working visit that the existing auto policy had drastically reduced the number of legitimately-imported vehicles.
He said importers would default in compliance with an overnight increase in duties of vehicles by more 100 per cent. To remain in business and survive, they either cut corners with Customsa�� personnel or smuggle in vehicles through the neighbouring ports.
a�?Most of the vehicles destined for Nigeria are smuggled in through the neighbouring port,a�? Russo said. a�?We operate as Grimaldi Lines in different countries, including Cotonou in Benin Republic, and we see what is happening there.
a�?We have the figures, so I can tell you that over 50 per cent of the vehicles destined for Nigeria are discharged at Cotonou Port. It is because it is too expensive to clear these vehicles in Nigeria and the bottom line is that people cannot afford to pay,a�? he said.
On the other hand, four years after the automotive policy took off, the locally-assembled vehicles are not only unavailable, but also remained very expensive. He asked: a�?Who can afford a Made-in-Nigeria vehicle at N10 million? Most of the vehicles in the market are in the range of N2 million, and these are fairly vehicles.a�?
For the Federal Government to maximise revenue, he sought a trade policy that facilitates vehicle importation and blocks the present huge leakage to the advantage of neighbouring countries, adding that, a�?it is very frustrating because these vehicles come back to Nigeria.a�?
He regretted that six years ago, the quality of imported vehicles was higher and the condition better, but now accidental cars are everywhere because they attract low duties, while the good ones with higher duties go to Cotonou.
Consequently, a�?the Federal Government loses, Customs loses, Shippersa�� Council loses, NIMASA loses and the whole country loses, but mostly are the Nigerian people because these vehicles will be more expensive. This is why there is high level of non-compliance and why cargo is diverted to other ports,a�? Russo said.

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