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.
NIMASA Delivers Marine, Transport Building To Port Harcourt Varsity
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), has handed over the complex housing the Institute of Marine and Transport Technology to the University of Port Harcourt, in Rivers State.
A statement from the agency indicated that the building was initiated by its previous leadership.
“The initiative dated back to 2012/2013 when the former Director-General of the agency, Dr Dakuku Peterside, decided to build a maritime training institute.
“The initiative is not peculiar to the University of Port Harcourt. It is present in all the six geopolitical zones of the country.
“Any investment in education is definitely worthwhile. Research has shown that lack of education is relatively responsible for maritime crimes in the Niger Delta Region.
“We hope beneficiaries of this Maritime institute will be instrumental in making Nigeria a major maritime nation,” the statement said.
It quoted the Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Abraham Georgewill, who was represented by the VC Administration, Prof. Clifford Ofurum, as thanking NIMASA for selecting the university as the location for the maritime institute.
Ofurum assured NIMASA that the university would provide adequate faculty to ensure courses were accredited and recognised globally.
Wigwe’s Family Announces Burial Plan
The family of Herbert Wigwe has announced the burial plans for the Wigwes.
Wigwe, alongside his wife, Chizoba, and son, Chizi, died in an helicopter crash in the United States on February 9.
The crash also claimed the lives of a former Chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group Plc, Abimbola Ogunbanjo, and two crew members.
According to the plan, the funeral ceremony will commence on Monday, March 4, 2024.
Meanwhile, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, City of David, where Herbert used to be a staunch member before his demise, was conspicuously missing from the list of churches scheduled to host two of the programmes.
According to the funeral plans, on Thursday, March 7, a combined Service of Songs will take place at RCCG, Ressurection Parish at Jakande Estate, Lekki, Lagos State while a combined funeral service will be held on Saturday, March 9, at RCCG, Lion of Judah Parish, Isiokpo, Rivers State.
The absence of the City of David parish on the list has, however, raised concerns despite the acknowledgement of the late Wigwe’s immense contribution to the parish while he was alive.
The Pastor in Charge of the parish, Idowu Iluyomade, had paid glowing tributes to the late bank chief while reacting to his sudden demise.
Iluyomade, who described the deceased as God’s general, added that he donated generously to the church.
Speaking during a service titled: “Barrier Shattering Thanksgiving (Sunshine Service)” on Sunday, February 11, the clergyman recalled how Wigwe spent about N500m for God Children’s Great Talent Project and how he adopted some children.
He said, “Wigwe was the Chairman of the Finance Committee with Pastor Siju, and I remember when we wanted to start the fundraising, he took us to Eko Atlantic, he put a marquee there, he brought people from America to come and see, and in that event, we raised about N600m. One would have thought he would sit back; he kept going. He told me we’ll do it.
“When this place was ground zero, he paid five years rent for a branch when there was nothing, just to assist. Then later, he said ‘I’ll give you two branches – one on the left, one on the right,’ and he paid five years each (10 years). Nobody would support a Greenfield, if you’ve built, yes, you can go. One of his purposes was to assist us.”
However, while friends and families of the deceased were still mourning, Iluyomade’s wife, Siju, threw a lavish 60th birthday party.
The lawyer, pastor and founder of the Arise Women Foundation held the birthday on Sunday, February 18, 2024.
Distinguished guests, including billionaires and monarchs, were on hand to rejoice with her at the party, which took place at the Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island Lagos. Also present at the event was popular singer, Chinedu Okoli, better known by his stage name Flavour N’abania.
Some Nigerians, however, expressed their displeasure at the celebrant for holding a party barely weeks after the tragic deaths of prominent members of the church.
This also fuelled insinuations about a seeming connection between the development and the decision of the family not to have considered the parish in the burial plans.
Economy: I Take Full Responsibility, Nigeria ’ll Recover-Tinubu
President Bola Tinubu, on Wednesday, appealed for patience from Nigerians over the current economic hardship in the country, giving the assurance that there was light at the end of the tunnel.
The President said he was fully aware and took responsibility for the difficulties Nigerians had been subjected to on account of government policies.
He said he would not complain but welcome all criticisms since he was the one who asked to be Nigeria’s President.
The President spoke in Akure, the Ondo State capital, during his visit to the leader of the pan-Yoruba sociopolitical organisation, Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti.
He also paid a condolence visit to the family of the late former Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, who passed on in December following a protracted battle with cancer.
The fuel subsidy removal and other economic reforms instituted by Tinubu have attracted public censure following the high costs of living, food inflation and other side effects.
The situation compelled the Nigeria Labour Congress to hold a nationwide protest on Tuesday.
The congress also threatened further mass action if the government failed to address the economic crunch within two weeks.
However, addressing public concerns over his economic policies, the President said, “Nigeria will survive the current economic challenges. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I requested the job, and I am not complaining about it. I take full responsibility.”
This was contained in a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, titled, ‘President Tinubu: I take full responsibility for the nation; we are building an efficient Nigeria that is inclusive and fair to all Nigerians.’’
Tinubu emphasised his commitment to leading Nigeria towards economic and social prosperity, saying, “We are meeting our obligations to the international community. To lenders, we have not defaulted, and we are not going to default. We are navigating the twists and bends on the road to Nigeria’s prosperity.”
On reforming Nigeria, the President said his task would be to ensure fiscal and true federalism, as well as the broad-based manifestation of the philosophy of “what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”
He acknowledged the understanding and support of all Nigerians in the face of the harsh but temporary economic conditions, assuring them that their patience and perseverance will not be fruitless.
“But, through perseverance, Lagos emerged as the fifth largest economy in the entire continent of Africa. We must manage this moment with wisdom and grow Nigeria responsibly.
“I campaigned for this office to serve Nigeria’s interests and I was elected. Some said I would not last in the tribunal and came up with all sorts of predictions, but even when in court, I remained focused.
“We cannot allow Nigeria’s economy to be exploited. We cannot abandon our economy to marauders. I am determined to re-engineer our finances and curb selfish interests permanently,” he stated.
Speaking on behalf of Afenifere, Pa Olu Falae, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, who read the address of Pa Fasoranti, commended Tinubu for his commitment to Nigeria’s progress and expressed support for his administration’s efforts.
“You have kept your word to return to this place where we all prayed for you, and this shows that you are a man of your word,” the elder statesman stated.
Pa Fasoranti asked President Tinubu to be fair and courageous, declaring that such traits were the hallmark of the Afenifere family.
“Today, you are carrying our flag. We are noted for integrity, competence, fairness, and courage. Your performance so far has shown that you understand the full gravity of your mandate, which is to show the Nigerian people that a good government is possible,” he said.
Fasoranti also charged the President on institutional reforms, saying, “Mr President, please also seek institutional reforms that would strengthen our federation and make Nigeria safer and more prosperous. Try and balance the budget and execute capital projects that would create more employment. We thank you for welcoming the idea of state policing.’’
He added, “We want each of the geopolitical zones to have greater responsibilities for security, food production and infrastructural development. Since the removal of fuel subsidy, which was costing Nigeria $10bn yearly, the state governments have been receiving hefty allocations from the Federation account.
“Mr President should persuade the governors to allow this change of fortune for the states to reflect at the grassroots so that life can be better for our people. They should not just buy rice and yams for the people. They should create employment, improve education and build new infrastructures. Today, life is truly challenging for most people and the state governments have an important role to play to transform society.”
Fasoranti received the President in the company of some Afenifere leaders, who included a former governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, Chief Sehinde Arogbofa, Deji of Akure, Oba Aladelusi Aladetoyinbo; Chief Kole Omololu, among others
Earlier, the President had paid a condolence visit to Akeredolu’s family in Owo and also visited the palace of the Olowo of Owo Kingdom, Oba Ajibade Gbadegesin Ogunoye III.
Speaking at the palace of the monarch, Tinubu eulogised the late Akeredolu as a statesman and a distinguished legal luminary who served his people with unwavering dedication.
“We lost an illustrious son. Akeredolu was very close to me and an ally. He was a son of the soil, and I have come to pay homage,” the President said.
He extended his prayers for the good health, progress, and prosperity of the traditional ruler and the community and thanked the people of Owo for their support to the bereaved family.
Accompanied by the Governor of Ondo State, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, Tinubu also commiserated with the Akeredolu’s widow, Betty, the children, and other family members.
Addressing the widow and the family members, Tinubu said, “God will be with you. Your children will do well in life. May you all end well. May God be with you and uphold you,”
The wife of the late governor expressed appreciation for the President’s visit, describing Tinubu as a good friend and brother to her late husband.
She also thanked the South-West governors for their contributions to the burial of the late governor. She particularly thanked Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, for single-handedly repatriating the remains of Akeredolu back to Nigeria.
She said, “On behalf of my family, I appreciate Mr. President. We understood he couldn’t attend the burial ceremony due to the dictate of Yoruba culture. He couldn’t have attended the burial of his younger brother.
“Coming today (Wednesday ) is a big deal because we are in a better atmosphere. I also express my profound gratitude to the southern governors for their immense financial contributions to the burial, most especially, Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who singlehandedly brought Aketi’s remains back to Nigeria. We appreciate this huge show of love and we are grateful and forever indebted to him.
“I requested that Mr President see where Aketi has been laid to rest and he followed me. We are deeply grateful to Mr. President for coming. He is indeed Aketi’s brother and friend.
“I told Mr. President, yes, Aketi has left but he lives because he left behind legacies. It is our wish that those legacies continue and are built upon where necessary.”
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