By Odunewu Segun
Thousands of vehicles are still trapped in neighbouring border towns and villages after being removed from the port due to the Nigerian Customs Service policy banning the importation of vehicles through land borders, National Daily has gathered.
It was also gathered that the importers cannot send them back or bring them into Nigeria. So, they are kept in car parks and the owners have to pay for people to keep watch over them pending when they can be allowed to bring them in.
A female dealer at Berger, on Monday urged FG to reduce the custom duties, saying “We pay as high as N350, 000 for duty on Lexus. We are not against collection of custom duties because we pay in Cotonou where we import cars from and we also pay heavily here.”
Another dealer said auto dealers’ stand are now empty because of the policy and the high tariff rates. “You can see, our car stand is empty, custom officers came to pack all the cars that we have not paid the duties; we are begging them to reduce the payment,’’ he said.
Last year, the Nigeria Customs Service announced a ban on the importation of vehicles through land borders. The ban which took effect on January 1, 2017 was described as anti-people by the National Assembly, even advising that it should be suspended.
One of the licensed agents whose vehicles were among those still trapped, Kingsley Egbe, told National Daily that the owners of some of the vehicles had started documentation and even had their files with item, but they still could not get clearance to move their cars.
According to him, most of the Customs officers who served in the command in 2016 when the vehicles were escorted there from Cotonou had been transferred out of the command and new officers who knew nothing about them were the ones currently serving there.
Meanwhile, an officer of NCS who spoke with National Daily on the condition of anonymity said the vehicles were in the NCS custody, adding that by the time they were brought in, the official deadline had elapsed.
There is nothing we can do about the cars; we can only wait for directive from the headquarters to release them since we had already started enforcing the ban on their importation through land borders according to the directives given to us,” he explained.
Managing Director, PTML, Nigeria’s largest terminal for vehicles in Africa, Mr. Ascanio Russo, explained that the ban, coupled with the high cost of clearing vehicles have greatly affected the numbers of vehicle being imported into the country.
In 2014, the government raised the import tariff on vehicles from 22 per cent to 70 per cent, a situation which led to a drastic reduction in the number of cars that came through the nation’s port.