Auto dealers have begun moves to smuggle vehicles trapped at neighbouring Benin Republic through unapproved routes.
Recall that federal government banned the importation of used and new vehicles through the land border with effect from Jan. 1, 2017 and over 10,000 vehicles are trapped in neigbouring Benin Republic due to the implementation of the policy on Jan.1, 2017.
The interim chairman, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Idiroko Border, Elder Timothy Ayokunle, said that over 10,000 vehicles were trapped at Igolo, a town near the Idiroko border, waiting for a pass that would allow them to gain access into Nigeria.
He also disclosed that Cotonou ports are filled with vehicles headed for Nigeria but are also trapped due to the government policy.
Ayokunle said that the vehicles were trapped at the borders because clearing agents were unable to make duty payment before the Customs server was shut down.
However, one month into the implementation of the ban, auto dealers have started employing the service of smugglers to help smuggle the trapped vehicles into the country.
For instance, five 2014 model cars including; Mercedes Benz ML 350, Mercedes Benz E350, Lexus 330, Toyota Sienna and a Hilux patrol vehicle were intercepted by Idiroko border Customs officers for being being smuggled into the country.
Also, the Nigeria Customs Service, Seme Border Command also intercepted a 2016 Toyota Prado, worth N15 million, in enforcing Federal Government’s ban on vehicle importation through the land border.
Confirming the smuggling of trapped vehicles, the Managing Director of Today’s Motors, Ndubueze Okafor said since vehicles are banned from coming through the land borders and since the borders are porous, the vehicles will come in.
According to Okafor, while government will continue to lose revenue due to the Land ban policy, those who are into auto business will embrace smuggling to remain in business.
“Because those who are in the business want to remain in business, smuggling will be high and corrupt few Customs officers will collect money from smugglers and look the other way. For instance look at frozen chicken despite the ban, they still find their way into the country.”
Earlier, President General, Association of Motor Dealers in Nigeria, Lagos Chapter, Metchie Nnadiekwe said he had warned that the ban through the land borders will fuel smuggling and increase crime rate.
He said, “I have said it before that the policy will increase smuggling because the vehicles must come into Nigeria. I believe it was an ill conceived idea by the government because if they had wanted the ban to work, they should have provided an alternative which is to reduce the tariff at the seaport but if that is not done, they should prepare for high scale smuggling.
Confirming the act of smuggling, the Coordinator Zone ‘A’ of the Nigeria Customs Service, Assistant Comptroller General; Monday Abueh said some die-hard smugglers had last week attempted to smuggle-in some of the vehicles that are currently trapped at Cotonou in Benin Republic.
Abueh stated that at Idiroko border in Ogun State five 2014 model cars including; Mercedes Benz ML 350, Mercedes Benz E350, Lexus 330, Toyota Sienna and a Hilux patrol vehicle were being smuggled into the country were seized.
He said the vehicles were apprehended at the Alare Border in Idiroko.
“These cars were apprehended two nights ago, we will continue to do this without relenting in our efforts, about five vehicles were imported by the smugglers, but we cannot tell the duty paid value yet because we are not car marketers, the cars are brand new cars, despite the ban they tried to dare us, but we will continue to arrest them.”
“We expect that the smugglers would stop attempting to cross those cars into the country, it would be good for everybody so that we can divert our attention to other areas, but in an attempt to come in again, we would continue to arrest them”, he assured.