Uzodinma drums support for customs, accuses Indians, Lebanese of smuggling


Senator Hope Uzodinma, the executive governor of Imo State has called on the members of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) to support the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to facilitate legitimate trade and stem the tide of smuggling which he said is killing the Nigerian economy.

Speaking at the National Executive Council (NEC)/Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the association held recently in Owerri, the Imo state capital, the governor hinted that efforts were on to right the wrongs of the past.

Uzodinma observed that the reason why Cotonou port was very busy was because of the some of the fiscal policies of the Nigerian government that were not implementable adding that “we are going to, going forward, discuss with Mr. President and then look into some of the fiscal policies and regimes.”

He continued, “What does it cost us if we cannot produce a car here and then we put the duty for a car one hundred per cent and then Cotonou put it at five per cent? And then importers here, not even Nigerians, Nigerians don’t smuggle. The people smuggling in Nigeria are not Nigerians. We know because we do moderate importation. We know those who do bulk importation in Nigeria, that they are more Indians and Lebanese and all the rest of them.

“So, you now go to Cotonou and clear for five per cent and then you begin to see how to enter one bush or one forest to bring the car here. So, it is unnecessary, until we are ready and we are able to assemble our own cars here, of course, nature abhors a vacuum. We must allow people to bring in their cars and build our own non-oil revenue. Government doesn’t have a choice anymore because the truth is that crude oil can no longer help us grow the economy. So, the non-oil revenue must be built and for it to be built and built well, the process must revolve around you (ANLCA) people because if we want to close the borders and close the borders effectively, you must be carried along, we must sensitize you and the reason for closing the borders must be disclosed to you.

“So, I want you to support the Nigeria customs, support Nigerian government so we can secure our own nation. The reason why we must do that is that our not being able to do it here, who benefits? The neighbouring countries.

“How do you now say that you have ECOWAS Liberalization Scheme and you know that the only thing we have here is the market, we now outlaw the importation of palm oil. Meanwhile, we agreed that if you produce palm oil from any West African countries, you can bring it to Nigeria without paying duty. Then, Lebanese and the Indians will go to Cote D’Ivoire and bring ten ship loads of palm oil and change their documents as if the whole palm oil were made in Cote D’Ivoire. Who is Cote D’Ivoire to make twenty tonnes of palm oil? And they bring the ten ship loads of palm oil into Nigerian seaports, clear them without paying duty, Nigerian government will be losing over ten billion Naira and then Cote D’Ivoire will be making one billion and the Lebanese man or the Indian Man will take nine billion naira away from us. Is it not criminal?”

Governor Uzodinma disclosed that he had discussed with the Comptroller General of Customs on the need to discontinue issuing licenses to non-Nigerians for the purpose of engaging in clearing cargo at the nation’s ports saying ”if you are not a Nigerian, you don’t do this business because of our national interest.”

Photo: Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma.

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