Re: Ban on imported vehicles through the land borders – Can this also be a deliberate policy?

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By Dr. Eugene Nweke

What really gave rise to the importation of such policy? I am at lost!

Such policy has the capacity to increase the smuggling activities through unapproved routes.

I beg to maintain my position, the application of age limit in the importation of “Tokunbo” should be benchmarked, the older the vehicle the higher applicable duty rate it incurs and the newer the vehicle the lesser the applicable duty rate.

This approach will go along way in promoting an enduring policy application and implementation, and will drastically reduce smuggling tendencies.

Under the Trade Liberalisation Schemes of the World Trade Organization (WTO), signatory member nations are encouraged other than the quick resort to placement of ban or  the uncalculated application of quota system  on trade goods, it should rather resort to the use of  “tariff bar” in the control of importations against the local products for the protection of the local industries at the long run.

I want to believe, that, this policy is ill-conceived and untimely, in all ramifications, it is not prompted nor was determined by the market forces.

The Federal Government has a duty to ensure that our port are competitive enough in terms of safety, qualitative services delivery at most economic cost.

Both competitive ocean freight and port operational cost, efficiency, speed, predictability and friendliness is the core attraction for patronage consideration on the part of a shipper.

Again, the federal government has a duty to promote competition in all spheres of trade service and not continuously being at home with oligopolistic overtures, whereby promoting monopoly in a given sector.

Talking about  competitive port and maritime environment, one begin to contemplate on how to relate, compare and define interplay of competition amongst sub-regional ports and factors of patronage,  where the result of the recent research carried out in 2013, by Agence Francaise de Developpment , on container terminals across West and Central Africa, shows that, “the Nigeria Ports remain the most expensive in West and Central Africa”.

This assertion was buttressed, with the following report: “Whereas the port in Lome does not charge any dues on ships or cargo ( fees for tug services, pilotage and mooring are costed separately and were estimated at £3,973), port dues on vessels arriving at the Lagos Port was estimated at £19,963 per vessel. Dues on Cargo was estimated at £4,500 (totalling £24,463),  in comparison to £0 dues in Lome Port, £1,092 in Tema Port and £3,300 in Cotonou per 20 footer container box direct payment .

“These comparison do not factor in nor included the cost of stevedoring, terminal handling service charges,  storage/demurrage charges,  payable Customs applicable duties, agency charges and other taxes, for which data is generally not available”.

The report went further to note, that: “In Nigeria, in addition to the very high port dues, shippers and other port stakeholders have been agitating against the perceived increasing cost of cargo handling services at privately operated terminals”.

The implications of the port dues and cargo dues slammed on carrier is that, all of this cost is inculcated or inbuilt into the ocean freight payable by the shippers, suggesting why the ocean freight rate for all Nigeria bound cargo are expensive when compare to other ports within the sub region.

So to say, essentially, government through its concerned agencies,  in its quest for revenue generation without consideration to the need to encourage competition and fair business environment, other than high-handedness posture can indirectly be said to be the one responsible for high cost of business environment in our port, making its drumming for an efficient and business friendly ports in Nigeria, to appear deceitful of sort.

Here again, another auto-policy summersault.

Dr. Eugene Nweke is the former National President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF). He writes from Lagos.
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