By Innocent Orok
Following the Federal Government’s move to reopen the land borders for trade, the Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzordima has called on the Federal government to rejig unrealistic fiscal policies which drive importers to utilize neighboring ports.
Uzordima, who was formerly Chairman Senate Committee on Customs, also decried the multiplicity of Customs Units at ports access roads and highways; adding that it was erroneous for Customs to seize consignments already cleared by its officers at the ports.
The Imo State governor who was speaking during the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), also called for a robust synergy between freight agents and Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to dissipate the challenges with cargo evacuation from ports and border posts.
According to him, this partnership would also foster the nation’s bid to diversify the economy and boost non-oil revenue with numerous potentials from the maritime sector.
His words: “Cotonou port is very busy because of some unrealistic fiscal policies in Nigeria. What is the essence of placing the import duty of cars at 35% or more, when the country doesn’t produce cars? Isn’t it only reasonable for the government in Benin, Togo and other neighboring countries to peg their import duties at 5% to target Nigerian cargoes?
“Nigerians don’t smuggle and research has shown that those involved in big time smuggling in the country aren’t Nigerians. We know that those who do bulk importation of smuggled items are Indians and Lebanese. They go to Cotonou to clear the cars at 5% duties and explore the avenues of bringing the exotic vehicles via bushes and other unapproved border routes.”
“Until Nigeria is ready to assemble cars that are affordable and can compete with those imported, we must allow people to bring in imported cars and build non-oil revenue for the country. Government doesn’t really have a choice because of the dwindling non-oil revenue. The maritime sector must be harnessed as one of the viable alternatives and good fiscal policies would be needed to achieve this.”
He argued that until Nigeria is ready to assemble cars that are affordable and can compete with those imported, the government must allow people to bring in imported cars and build non-oil revenue for the country.
Noting that the job of a licensed Customs agent is also linked to national security, he said “If all security policies and programmes are sabotaged by you, it will not work. So, in the spirit of patriotism and national interest, I will urge you to close ranks with all agencies of government in the security sector and the business sector so that we will be able to protect our interest as a nation and unite Nigeria further.”
Meanwhile, ANLCA successfully elected nine members into its Board of Trustee (BOT). They include: Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, Executive Vice Chairman of SIFAX Group, Chief Ozor Chukwura, Chief Kingsley Offor and six others .While
the Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzordima was decorated as Grand Patron of ANLCA, and Chief Henry Njoku with another chieftain of the association were also made patrons of ANLCA respectively.
However, in a bid to ensure efficient contributions of elected officials in the association’s activities, the group’s constitution was reviewed to allow only single tenures for all elected leaders.
Mr. Peter Ojo had moved a motion which was later adopted by more than two-third of the ANLCA members participating in the AGM.
Similarly, the duration of the tenures for Chapter Executives was moved from three years to four years, while that of National Executives was moved from four years to five years and six years for Board of Trustee (BOT) members, all single tenures, but yet to be rectified.
Two-third of the participants in the AGM also agreed that the five years single tenure of the National Executives takes effect with the current administration and subsequent elections for BOT and Chapter Executives.
Giving his opening remarks at the event, the ANLCA President, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike said ANLCA will continue to pursue the interest of members in the areas of operational challenges, and other government policies that are not favourable to the interest of the maritime industry at large.