For five consecutive years, the Federal Government of Nigeria has lost half of its revenue accruing from duties paid on imported vehicles as 50 per cent of vehicles come in illegally.
These vehicles come through the closed borders and seaports without payment of duties to the government treasury, an investigation by the Nigeria Auto Journalists Association (NAJA) has revealed.
The economic sabotage, which gained traction in the first quarter of 2016, when the land borders were closed by President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government is perpetrated by either influential people/dealers who hand out signed documents to the Customs or bribe their way to clear the vehicles without due process.
In connivance with unscrupulous government officials, some dealers are treated as sacred cows and they are quick to get away with anything at the ports.
It was learnt that the illegal business does not stop at seaports alone; similar dealings have been reported in major land borders across the country, including Kpobe (Ogun State), Ijowu (Ogun State), Seme (Lagos State), Idiroko (Ogun State), Shaki (Oyo State), Daura (Katsina State), Baga (Borno State), etc.
It would be recalled that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) had September, 2019, raided some top car marts in Lagos.
The comptroller general’s Strike Force and officers attached to the Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone ‘A’, Ikeja stormed Berger along Apapa-Oshodi Express Road and other premises across the state.
Many of them were closed on the orders of the CG Service, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), for allegedly retailing smuggled vehicles in the shops.
Major car dealers including Affordable Cars Limited, Carlink Limited, Ineh Mic Autos, Globe, Coscharis, Skymit, Arrowhead Motors, Wonder Wheels, Auto Point, among others, were raided. Showrooms in other states, including, Sokoto, Katsina were equally affected.
The second-hand vehicles dealers were not spared as most of their showrooms were equally closed too due to reasons that have to do with documentation.
Commenting, the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Automotive Manufacturers Association (NAMA), Remi Olaofe, said, “you can’t say there is no smuggling in Nigeria; our borders are porous and we have done everything we needed to do to improve it, by shutting down the borders, but they are still porous.
Olaofe said it is a fallacy to say for every vehicle coming into the country, appropriate duties are being paid.
Stating that NAMA has proffered solution to the menace, Olaofe said that with their portal and that of the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC, it will be 100 per cent impossible for anybody to import a vehicle and not properly register in Nigeria because the portal will indicate that the appropriate amount of money is not paid.
“It is just as simple as that, but for the reason best known to the operators and the players in that market, they have refused to allow that portal to work”, he said.
Advising that vehicles must be registered for them to be driven on the road, Olaofe added that “You can’t be driving a vehicle that is not registered. To know this, they should go to the licensing office because the licensing office cannot license a vehicle without first clarifying from the portal and that clears the vehicle. If that is not there, we have what is called the BIN number, will throw up a red flag”.
Explaining further, Olaofe said, “I don’t represent the (FBU) Fully-Built Vehicle, mine advocacy is for us to shut our doors against the FBUs. Assembling of vehicles in Nigeria is what I represent”.
Confirming that the duty waiver for vehicles has been adjusted, but there is no difference in the rate of vehicles, the executive secretary said, “We are saying that it is not a duty that is affecting the rate we are paying as transportation fare.
“But the factors are the cost of fuel, infrastructure, security on the road, wear and tear, replacement of these spare parts and the conditions of the vehicles. They bring a lot of junks into this country.
“Africa Bilateral Free Trade Agreement has taken off, where is Nigeria in the scheme of things? Assembly plants are now moved to Ghana, what do we stand to benefit from?
“Toyota, Hyundai and co are being assembled in Ghana, are those for Ghana economy? They are for Nigeria economy”, Olaofe added.
The Deputy Managing Director, Massilia Motors, dealers of Mitsubishi brand of vehicles, Kunle Jaiyesimi, said most car dealers, including Massilia Motors, are still selling their old stock and that his company had stocked up to December for the 2021 business.
According to him, the car market has really shrunk and that dealers have not really made major decisions in 2021 in terms of vehicle imports.
Jaiyesimi said “to the assemblers, they are not happy with the Finance Act; it’s making the locally assembled vehicles uncompetitive compared to the Fully Built Units. For instance, Fuso and Canter (Mitsubishi) that we are assembling, it is cheaper to bring them in as FBU than locally assembling them. And that has affected our production lines.
Jaiyesimi, who is also the chairman, Auto Group of the LCCI proffered solutions, saying that “the only way for us have some gain on the assembly line is for govt to remove the import duty or reduce it. If they cannot remove it, they can bring it down to five per cent”.
The DMD said that, for now, they are charging 40 per cent (35 per cent import duty and five per cent for levy) on passenger cars for FBU; 10 per cent on (Semi Knocked Down (SKD) and 10 per cent on FBU buses.
He argued that whatever duty reduction the government has put in place for them to enjoy is being wiped off by the exchange rate fluctuations, stressing that the CBN is not supporting vehicle importers at SKD or FBU level.
Rather, he informed that stakeholders rely on the black market to pay their suppliers.
“Once you are getting your FX from the black market, whatever gain that is coming from the import duty reduction is lost in the over 25 per cent increase in the FX rate”, Jaiyesimi added.
Further investigations, however, show that both new vehicle dealers and second-hand vehicles merchants are deeply involved in this business of short-changing the government.
A key member of the United Bergers Motor Dealers’ Association (UBMDA), Chike Ejogu, said that dealers evade Apapa ports because of the high duties paid to clear the vehicles there.
According to him, that is the major reason why dealers resort to smuggling in vehicles at cheap rates, to make big gains.
Ejiogu said, “the whole thing worsened in early 2016 when the land borders were closed. Before the closure we used to pay N74, 000 and N96, 000 for small cars while we were paying about N170, 0003 for big vehicles like SUVs”.
Ejiogu revealed that about 5,000 vehicles are smuggled through the Idiroko land border every month.
The Chairman, Allen B Motors Nig Limited, Lawal Azeez, said that car smuggling has caused the government a fortune.
According to the auto dealer, a reduction of duties paid to the government will help to discourage smugglers from their illegal operation.
Meanwhile, efforts made to get statistics of imported vehicles from various auto companies proved abortive.
Figures from Kia were not available as of the time of filing this report.
Although, Coscharis was also approached for the statistics the auto firm is yet to respond as of the time of filing this report.
The story is basically the same at West Star Associates Nigeria Limited, the sole distributor of Mercedes-Benz vehicles in Nigeria.
While different regions of the world make available sales statistics regularly, Mercedes-Benz representatives in Nigeria always turn down a request for sales statistics.
When contacted, a source promised to make necessary contacts within the company and get back to.
The source did not get back as at press time.
However, for the first quarter of 2021, despite the challenges associated with Covid-19, Mercedes-Benz Cars sold 590,999 passenger cars across the world driven by China and United States retail sales as well as strong demand for plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles
One of the implications of vehicle smuggling or duty evasion, is that the vehicles of these illegal auto dealers are sold easily at cheap prices because they never pay the right duty to get them into the country.
Consequently, the genuine dealers are left to suffer the outcome as they cannot sell vehicles lower than the actual cost of bringing them to the showrooms.
Army Names Abubakar Sponsor Of Terrorists
The Director, Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. Musa Danmadami made this known at the bi-weekly news briefing on the operations of the armed forces, yesterday, in Abuja.
Danmadami said the suspects were apprehended on September 15 at Access Bank, PZ Branch in Zaria while trying to withdraw the sum of N14million deposited into the account of Abubakar.
He said the relevant agencies were working assiduously to track the said financier and others who had been fingered for terrorism financing.
The director said the military and other security agencies remained committed to apprehending all terrorism financiers and collaborators in the country.
Danmadami also said the troops conducted operational activities in villages, communities, and towns in Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina and the Kaduna states during the period and neutralized 16 terrorists.
He added that troops also arrested 10 notorious terrorists and rescued 21 kidnapped civilians at different locations in the Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
According to him, the air component on September 13, conducted an air interdiction operation at an identified terrorist hideout in Dutse Babare in Jibia Local Government Area of Katsina State.
“The air strike led to the neutralisation of a terrorist leader identified as Ibrahim Dangawo and other members of his gang.
“Similar, operation was carried out at Gidan Guga in Faskari Local Government Area also in Katsina State, at an identified terrorist enclave.
“The airstrike led to the neutralization of a terrorist kingpin known as Babaru who has been on the wanted list of security agents,” he said.
Danmadami said the troops also neutralised a large number of terrorists in an air raid at Kawari axis in Danmusa Local Government Area of Katsina State.
He said it was revealed that the terrorist group had been responsible for kidnapping and robbery incidents in the area.
In the North Central, Danmadami said the Commander, Operation Safe Haven, on September 10, held a joint peace summit to sensitise communities in Plateau on the need for peaceful coexistence.
He said the summit was part of the non-kinetic approach to resolving lingering security challenges in the state.
He said the air component of Operation Whirl Punch on September 8, carried out an air interdiction operation at an identified terrorist hideout at Gaude, Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger, killing scores of terrorists.
“It was further revealed that all the attacks around Shiroro were orchestrated from this location and consequently, the hideout was bombarded.
“Feedback revealed that several terrorists were neutralised with others fleeing with various degrees of injuries.
“Also, two suspected gun runners en route Onitsha to Abuja were arrested by personnel of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency along Okene-Lokoja road in Kogi State.
“Items recovered from the suspects were 12 pump action guns and 374 cartridges.
“The arrested suspects and recovered items were handed over to the Nigerian Police for further action,” he said.
PDP Crisis: Wike, Makinde, Others Ditch Atiku’s Campaign Train …Insist On Ayu’s Resignation, National Chairman From South
They emphasised that the publication of the Presidential Campaign Council list without the resolution of Ayu lingering debacle, translates to “putting the cart before the horse.”
Rising from a crucial meeting in the early hours of Wednesday in Port Harcourt, Makinde said they hope that the powers that be within the PDP would listen to the voice of reason and do the needful.
The former PDP South-West national vice chairman, Chief Olabode George, who read out the communique after the meeting, said they were concerned about the divisions in the party, and bemoaned the failure of the leadership to utilise the internal conflict resolution mechanisms to ensure inclusiveness of all and guarantee victory for the PDP.
“The published presidential campaign council list translates to putting the cart before the horse. The pertinent issue before the party remains the resolution of the Ayu leadership debacle, which is a departure from the spirit and letter of our constitution which undermines the unity of our great party.
“We, therefore, resolve that Senator Iyorchia Ayu resigns as the national chairman of the party for an acting chairman of Southern Nigeria extraction to emerge, and lead the party on the national campaign.
“Consequently, we resolve not to participate in the campaign council in whatever capacity until the resignation of Senator Iyorchia Ayu”.
In the same vein, former Plateau State Governor, Senator Jonah Jang, said the description of Sokoto State Governor, Hon Aminu Tambuwal as the PDP presidential primaries hero by Ayu, is antithetical to the principle of justice, fair play and equity on which the party was formed.
“It is true that everything is been done for us to have internal democracy in the party. But, for the national chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu to go and embrace Tambuwal, calling him the hero of the convention, which means there was a private arrangement that was done with Tambuwal to short change other contestants, including Wike.
“Here was a referee who now helps one of the sides to score a goal, and then blow the whistle that a goal had been scored.
“This is not what we formed the PDP to do for Nigerians, and therefore, we unequivocally asked that Ayu has to step down, so that having got the presidential candidate from the northern part of the country through his assistance, he should as well now step down so that a national chairman can move to the south, and the party can be united for the campaign towards 2023.”
He said Wike and others call for Ayu to resign is aimed at addressing the structural imbalance in the party’s hierarchy.
On his part, former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana, said if PDP cannot restructure itself, it cannot restructure Nigeria.
He insisted that as committed PDP members, they’re sincerely desirous that the PDP returns to power and provide Nigerians excellent governance.
“But that cannot be achieved unless we have a proper structure of the party as designed by the founding fathers. We are men and women who are committed to the issues of justice, fairness, equity. You cannot build on a faulty foundation.
“Therefore, this call for the chairman to step down or resign is not because any of us is aggrieved, but because we believed it is important to ensure a fair structure, a just structure, a principle structure, a constitutional structure for the party.
“If we want to restructure Nigeria, we should have the courage to restructure our party. And that is why we have met and decided that this is extremely important, and therefore we want Nigerians to know.”
Gana maintained that they will remain committed members of PDP, but will continue to insist that the right things be done.
“We remain PDP, but we want things done justly, fairly, equitably.”
Former Gombe State Governor, Dr Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, who also spoke, declared that they will work for the party to the extent that fairness, equity and justice is ensured in the party.
Those who attended the meeting are Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike; Oyo State Governor, Engr Seyi Makinde; former governors of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose; Dr. Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo); Donald Duke (Cross River); PDP South-South National Vice Chairman, Chief Dan Orbih; former Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, SAN; Senator Olaka Nwogu; Senator Lado Danmarke; Senator Mao Ohuabunwa; Senator Sandy Onor; Sulaiman Mohammed Nazif.
Others include, Rt. Hon. Chibudum Nwuche; Hon. Ibrahim Shehu Gusau; Hon. Nnenna Elendu Ukeje; Hon. Mohammed Maifada; Hon. Bayo Lawal; Mohammed Jamu; Caleb Mutwang and David Emmanuel Ombugadu.
Ariolu Calls For Diligence, Value-Oriented Service At Schools Board
He said those whose positions were to render services must show diligence in the discharge of their duties in order to add immense value to the society.
Ariolu stated this while addressing members of the Rivers State Senior Secondary Schools Board, Obio/Akpor Zone, at the Council Headquarters, Rumuodomaya.
He stressed that any service rendered which was not value-oriented, does not depict governance, adding that leaders must first be of service to God before humanity.
Acknowledging the challenges in the education sector, Ariolu explained that his primary concern was the curriculum system, which if not designed in line with the dynamics of the country, may not be sustained.
Addressing the concerns around the challenges in the sector, Ariolu highlighted the role of board members in also tackling the issues.
While advocating the cooperation of zonal board members for the advancement of education in the area, the chairman said that his administration had paid requisite attention to education through the award of grants to deserving Post Graduate students drawn from different religious and tribal backgroundswithout considering party leaning.
Emphasising the importance of education in line with his administration’s vision, he also revealed that the council was training nine persons from the wards, including non-indigenes in Charkin Maritime Academy.
He said that the training cost his administration a whopping sum of over N4.2million per person.
Ariolu re-echoed continuous support for the promotion of education in the area, and disclosed the commencement of application for the second batch of the Post Graduate grant for students in the area.
He reaffirmed his administration’s resolve in ensuring that things run smoothly in the area, adding that people need to know their rights and defend it.
He blamed poor performance of leaders in authority on the failure of the electorate to question their actions, especially when they are not carrying out their duties in line with the requirements of the Constitution.
Responding to the demands of the board members, Ariolu maintained that efficiency of workers was largely affected by the nature of work environment, adding that the council would intervene where necessary.
He, however, promised to provide a larger office space to accommodate the over 60 staff strength of the board in the area.
Speaking earlier, Zonal Director of the board, Mrs Esther Owhor Chukwu, called for an improved partnership with the local government to tackle challenges of the sector and to enhance academic activities in the area.
She also lauded Ariolu’s efforts in the development and growth of education in the area, particularly in human capital development.
Also speaking, a former Caretaker Committee Chairman and member of the board, Dr Mesua Wilson Nwibari, described Ariolu as a people-oriented chairman, who had continued to put his people first in governance.
He further eulogised the council chairman as a man with vast knowledge to lead, considering the metropolitan nature of the local government.
By: Nelson Chukwudi
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