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FG’s protectionist policies fuel smuggling  – Stakeholders

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Abiola Seun Stakeholders in the nation’s maritime sector have called for a review of the federal government’s protectionist policies, saying the long prohibition list of the country is fueling smuggling.Speaking at the 2022 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the League of Maritime Editors and Publishers (LOMEP), in Lagos, a Lecturer at the Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta State, Charles Okorefe and the Chairman, Port Consultative Council, (PCC), Otunba Kunle Folarin, argued that protectionist measures by the government, which restrict imports, have not only inhibited international trade but encouraged smuggling. Okerefe, on his part, noted that there is need for the government to review its protectionist policies as local manufacturers are unable to satisfy local consumption, a development which he said has given rise to smuggling.“Why do we have such a protectionist policy of government that protects and inhibits indirectly international trade? When we closed the borders about two years ago, what are the gains of the border closure? Did it serve as a deterrent against smuggling?“Protectionist measures always limit the growth potentials of a country because people who are manufacturing can be substandard and say nothing will be allowed to come in so we can have any standard.

“Protectionist policies also encourage smuggling and discourage people in the country from improving their standard and production. If we get a policy that encourages quality production, then our trade will go up.“As at last year, we had 41 items on the prohibition list, this year milk was also added to make it 42. We prohibit all these items yet we are not producing them in commercial quantities. So, what do we expect?“Protectionism is to ensure that what we are protecting against is produced in enough quantities locally so that the ones that are being brought in will become unattractive but we are not producing these items in sufficient quantities.
“For example, the government banned rice importation but we are not producing enough rice to feed ourselves,” he said. He, however, condemned the persistent interception of cargoes by multiple units of Customs outside the port, 100 percent manual examination of cargoes and incessant alerts as they have continued to impede trade facilitation. “I don’t understand why after examination of cargoes at the terminal, a Customs Deputy Comptroller will release it, the same cargo will get to the gate and another officer at the gate will find reason to detain the cargo and when the cargo eventually leaves the port, we have the FOU, and the Strike force that will intercept the cargo. Are we running different Customs formations or is it the one single Customs?” “All units of Customs should make themselves present for cargo examination so the release will be seamless otherwise the problem will continue,” he said.On his part, the PCC chairman, Otunba Folarin advised the government to apply high import tariffs as an alternative to prohibited items and deploy technology to deter smuggling. “We can apply the use of high tariffs as a deterrent or we start a manufacturing regime in the country so that those things that are being smuggled are domiciled in our country.
” It will not only develop our economy but also give jobs to our young people and create revenue for the government instead of having a long list of prohibited items,” he said. In his remarks, representative of the Controller, Federal Operations Unit, Zone ‘A’, Deputy Comptroller Isiaku B.A, admitted that while technological deployments have significantly reduced bottlenecks associated with clearance of goods at the nation’s ports, the use of technology in suppression of smuggling has however, received little attention. According to him, “The procurement and deployment of drones as well as Close circuit Television (CCTVs) along the border areas will monitor the activities of smuggling and smugglers without necessarily deploying the field officers.
” A central monitoring center will identify spots where offending items are stockpiled and with just one stop operation, the items will be evacuated under heavy detachment of officers.
“This will avert regular confrontations between officers and smugglers. “Technologically equipped patrol vans and the use of body cameras by patrol officers will reduce to the barest minimum most allegations of extortions leveled against officers while on patrol.
“The communication gadgets installed in patrol vans will also ease communication gaps between different patrol teams at different points. Should there be any crisis in any given location, reinforcement will not suffer hiccups.” In his welcome address, the immediate-past President of LOMEP, Mr. Kingsley Anaroke noted that his administration was able to enhance productivity and rebrand the group. Anaroke, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of Kings Communications Limited, publishers of MMS Plus newspaper, highlighted some of his administration’s accomplishments to include; establishment of a Centre for Maritime Journalism, Group Insurance for members, a maritime compendium, new patrons, transparency in budgeting, among others. While expressing delight that his leadership consumated over 95 percent of its agenda, he tasked the new executives to further advance the cause of journalism and display genuine leadership.
In his goodwill message, the new President of LOMEP, Mr. Timothy Okorocha promised to build on the successes of his predecessor.

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