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How Customs Officers, Agents connive to circumvent age-limit rule of vehicles

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—- as banned vehicles flood Nigerian markets

By Ayobami Adedinni

Fresh revelations have emerged on how some officers of the Nigeria Customs Service and Customs Agents connive to circumvent the age-limit rule of the Federal Government by importing vehicles older than 15 years, investigation by Nigeriamaritime360.com can confirm.

Vehicles Age Limit 

Few years ago, the government raised the age limit of vehicles to be imported into the country from 10 years to 15 years.

So far, Nigeria has relied on imports to meet the massive annual demand for vehicles and cover the gaps left unfilled by its fledging automobile industry.

In response, past and present governments have come up with different policies in the name of improving local vehicle manufacturing.

In 2019, Nigeria imported an estimated 1.3 million vehicles, 56% more than 734,000 in 2017. Because of the high rate of smuggling, it is difficult to get the exact figures for vehicle imports in Nigeria.

As of 2018, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recorded that there were 11.8 million registered vehicles in Nigeria, with the then population of 198 million people putting the vehicle per population ratio at 0.06.

Findings by our correspondent who visited various car marts within the Lagos port area, some owners confirmed that due to the boom in Taxi business especially Uber and Bolt, most of the cars come in disguised as accidented vehicles in order to avoid the scrutiny of inspection.

A source who craved anonymity said “past governments in Nigeria at various times imposed age limit for vehicles (especially private) being imported into the country.

“It bugs ones mind as to why a government would embark on such pronouncements. A well-maintained twenty-year old car could be more reliable and more cost effective to own by most middle to low income earners.
“There’s no gain saying the bulk of vehicles used for commercial purposes fall within this bracket.

“Our borders continually receive these “banned ” vehicles and the so-called hardworking Nigeria customs manage to grab some to display on national television, ” he said.

Speaking with our correspondent, Lucky Amiwero, President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) said the Nigeria Customs needs to implement its mandate and plug revenue leakage.

“The work of Customs is to stop such from happening. Older cars or not, is it not movable? I don’t think we have problem on that. The issue is that Customs should implement what the government says it should implement. Their work is to check if there are contraband or revenue leakage.

Customs should not be playing politics. They should do their job,” he added.

Also speaking, Osita Okechuku, National Coordinator of Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders Imports and Export Coalition (SNFFIEC), said such activities could not have been done without the cooperation of other security agencies.

In his words, ” Even if they circumvent customs, how about police and other security agencies there?

If customs wants to do its job, nobody will carry any container in the port. If agents at the same time decide to say, “we are going to get it right”, no such container will come into the country. Also, if importers do it the way  it’s supposed to be done, you won’t have such cases,” he stated.

In his reaction, Abubakar Usman, Public Relations Officer of Apapa Customs Command, denied such allegations and described it as baseless.

“I can only hold brief for what happens in my command. I have never heard nor come across such baseless allegation against officers and men of the service.

“Accordingly, you may present any evidence to back this claim, for the service to go after such bad eggs and deal with whoever is involved decisively,” he said.

Efforts to reach customs National PRO, Joseph Attah, proved abortive as message sent to his mobile phone was not replied as at press time.

© 2021, maritimemag. All rights reserved.

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