THE Federal Government yesterday said contrary to reports, the new vehicle import tariff which commenced on July 1, did not impose a flat tariff of 70 per cent duty on all imported used cars, saying the new policy would not lead to increase in cost of vehicles in the country.
This came as ports operators under the aegis of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, threatened to shut port activities should the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, go ahead with the implementation of the new auto policy.
Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, who gave this clarification while briefing state House Correspondents after the Federal Executive Council, FEC meeting explained that companies involved in the local vehicle manufacturing or assembly programme would pay 35 per cent duty on cars they imported to bridge any gap in local demand.
According to him, "I briefed council today on a misleading article in one of the newspapers on Tuesday on the auto policy and we thought it necessary to communicate and correct it. The article has claimed that the duty on used cars is now 70 per cent from yesterday, (Tuesday). That is incorrect. It is 35 per cent. It has also claimed that all used cars coming into the country will attract a duty of 70 per cent. That again is incorrect.
"Those in the car assembly programme will be able to import cars to meet the gap, when you look at production and the demand in the country. They will be able to import those cars at 35 per cent, not 70 per cent. It is only for those who are putting a strain on our foreign reserves, who have no intention of creating jobs in the country, who want to continue to remain traders, that the 70 per cent duty applies to. This is to discourage trading, to encourage local assembly, job creation and unnecessary pressure on our foreign reserves. So, it's an economic issue and deliberately so."
Mr Aganga also assured that the new automotive policy would not lead to an increase in the prices of cars in the country, saying manufacturing and assembly companies and some major car distributors and importers had undertaken not to increase prices.
However, issuing the threat in Lagos, National President of ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu at an expanded National Executive Council, NEC, meeting of the association said the association had been meeting with a sister association; National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, to ensure total withdrawal of services.
The two associations also plan a joint position on the issue.
ANLCA also accused the Federal Government of abandoning the Apapa-Oshodi expressway as well as the roads leading to Onne Port in Rivers State, where the government generates billions of Naira as revenue, lamenting that it lost two of its members on the bad roads leading to the ports.
Shittu explained that failure of government to address members' concerns would lead to a total collapse of port activities, claiming the association already had the backing of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, and the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO).
According to him, "Anytime customs implements the 35% levy, we will start a series of protests and placard-carrying that will eventually lead to the withdrawal of service. Many vehicles are now going through the un-approved routes and this is affecting the economy of our members. We have a right to protect the interest of Nigerian shippers more than the interest of government because, government does not care about us. We have been asking them for one per cent based on revenue generated, but they have asked us to collect our money from importers.
"The government has deliberately ignored the roads leading to Apapa, Tin Can and Onne ports. The ports are already closing themselves; now if you want to go to Apapa port you might not get there today. Yet the terminal operators and shipping companies are benefiting from this. At the end of the day people turn around to say agents are delaying cargo clearance. All roads to the ports where government is making billions per day are bad; they don't care about them, not even to put palliative measures."