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Songs of sorrow from auto dealers, others

…As ban on vehicle imports through land borders commences

By Job Osazuwa

Last month, the Federal Government gave a directive restricting all vehicle imports to Nigerian seaports only and announced the prohibition of importation of vehicles, new and used, through land borders.
The order, which took effect from January 1, 2017, was one piece of news that came as a rude shock to dealers and buyers alike. It has since been generating bitter reactions among stakeholders and the masses, with many describing it as yet another regulation that would inflict more pain on already traumatised Nigerians.
Many automobile dealers expressed concerns that the policy would further increase the prices of vehicles. With the economic downturn in the country, there are further fears that the Federal Government’s decision would push vehicles out of the reach of more Nigerians.
Some also posited that the policy kicked off at the wrong time, since most Nigerians would have spent huge sums of money during the Yuletide and would find it difficult to pay more than usual to own a car in January.
Nigeria shares major land borders with Benin Republic at Seme (Lagos), Idiroko (Ogun), Shaki (Oyo), Chikanda (Kwara) and other smaller openings. The most prominent among them is Seme, where the highest volume of trade and largest smuggling window exists because of its easy access to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.
In a statement issued by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), through its Public Relations Officer, Mr. Wale Adeniyi, government said: “The restriction on importation of vehicles follows that of rice, whose imports have been banned through the land borders since April 2016. Importers of vehicles through the land borders are requested to utilise the grace period up till December 31, 2016, to clear their vehicle imports landed in neighbouring ports.”
Many dealers who spoke to Daily Sun described the policy as notv properly thought out. They criticised government for not consulting the real stakeholders and operators in the sector before the hasty decision.
One Nigerian that the news unsettled was the managing director of Stainless Automobile House, Alhaji Lateef Bamidele O. He told Daily Sun that car dealers were already experiencing low sales even before the government’s order.
According to him, there was nothing wrong with government’s intention to generate more revenue through the country’s ports, but those saddled with the responsibility of clearing vehicles at various ports would get more revenue by making Nigerian ports attractive to importers.
“The only way government can win the hearts of dealers is to reduce various rates and charges on demurrage. I also suggest that incentives should be given to registered car dealers to keep them in business and make buyers pay less to own a car,” he said.
Mr. Kayode Olasukanmi, another Lagos-based auto dealer, said he was full of pity for Nigerians who would be the eventual buyers of the products because dealers couldn’t run business at a loss.
He said: “The Federal Government should know that the policy would make the average worker unable to buy a car. There is no pretence about it; at the end of the high clearing fee, everything will bounce back to the final consumers, the buyers. We sell after the total cost of buying over there, shipping and clearing here.
“We all know the country we are in, that people in public office see situations as opportunities to enrich themselves. The government should have asked why dealers were not patronising our ports as much as they patronise those in neighbouring countries. How can an average income earner claim a fairly used car for half a million naira? There are some that are above that fee. If you are paying demurrage, that is another burden. Let government reduce the clearing fees and monitor the various payment points to ensure that the money gets to government’s account.”
Also lamenting the new order, an accountant with a microfinance bank in Ife, Osun State, Mr. Ernest Michael, who travelled to Lagos in December last year to clear a sports utility vehicle (SUV) that he ordered from abroad, said he spent a total of N550,000 for a vehicle he bought for less than N400,000.
“The money to clear it, including few days of demurrage, was N550,000. The demurrage was due to the frustrating ways that the Customs and other port officials handled everything. The stress alone was enough for one to abandon the vehicle there. Nigerians shouldn’t be made to face such hassle to clear a car that one also suffered to get the money to buy,” he said.
Other dealers of new and used vehicles who did not want their names mentioned also condemned the policy, saying that it would have a destructive effect on ordinary Nigerians and the economy in general.
In their unanimous submission, the policy would have more negative impact on used cars, the segment of the market where most Nigerians operate. They described the mew policy as anti-people.
The auto dealers stressed that government’s drive to increase revenues was no justification for the policy, even as they raised the alarm that it would sabotage Nigeria’s economic growth.
The dealers further knocked government and accused it of taking the decision in the interest of auto manufacturers, whom they described as a small segment of the industry, adding that only a few of such ‘manufacturers’ actually make cars in Nigeria.
However, there are others who also believe that the government might have, with this restriction, acceded to one of the requests made by the Nigerian Automotive Manufacturers Association (NAMA) to ease their operations.
Pressing home their demand, before government’s decision, chairman of NAMA, Mr. Tokunbo Aromolaran, had stated that manufacturing had been tough in the Nigerian environment because specific attention had not been paid to manufacturers’ peculiarities.
“All the people that we compete against operate in an environment that makes it easy for them to access the things they need to put together to add value to their various environment. But here, you have to build your own power station, roads, water system, coming through the port is hell, inflation affects us too, at 21 per cent, and when you put all these together the cost of production is naturally higher,” he complained.
Aromolaran noted that the preferential duties given to auto manufacturers through the national auto policy should be improved upon. He explained that the federal government, through the policy, had put in place preferential duties for his colleagues who assemble either from completely knocked down or semi-knocked down vehicles: “That has helped so far, but we need to carry it further, the reason being that, if we don’t achieve the volumes, then what we want in terms of lower prices will not manifest and what we are hoping is that Nigerians would be channelled towards buying locally produced cars, which means less of cars that have been used by other people for 10, 15 or more years abroad.”
While government’s decision might come as a soothing balm to members of NAMA and ship owners, some importers who have always relied on the Benin Republic borders to bring vehicles into the country are sad. Some of them, in interviews with Daily Sun, said the federal government must, as a matter of urgency, rescind the decision, considering the dire economic situation in the country at the moment.
Though the battle to stop smuggling of vehicles into Nigeria has been on for many years, the NCS has vowed to implement thie new restriction to the letter.
On how to ensure effective enforcement of the directive, the NCS spokesman, Seme Command, Taupyem Sechang, declared that: “We are increasing our intelligence and surveillance capability. With better-coordinated intelligence, enforcement is easier. We are leaving no stone unturned, including checking the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme, to ensure goods manufactured outside the sub-regional bloc are not smuggled under the scheme’s cover.
“We are doing it successfully on the ban on rice. Automobiles will not be different. Seme is now the most difficult place to smuggle things through. Perpetrators are seeking alternative routes in other borders and they are not finding it easy. We hope to deploy more officers strategically and we have started.
“The Customs Area Commander insists on uncompromising discharge of all directives from our Comptroller-General and the government. Enforcing the ban on motor vehicles import through the borders will not be different here in Seme border. Why are we here?”
He warned that anybody shipping Nigeria-bound cars from Benin Republic would be taking a serious economic risk, because the policy would be enforced, not minding the financial loss on such risk-takers.
Meanwhile, apart from governments’ complaints, economic analysts had over the years sounded the alarm that smuggling severely harms the economy of a country in diverse ways, especially as a major proportion of the revenue to be collected by the federal government is being lost.
Economist, Mr. Ubani Uchenna, said: “This is good news, but those that have been benefitting from illegal importation may not welcome the idea. But then, government should make its ports more friendly so that Nigerians will not be at the receiving end.”


Goldcrest puts smiles on teachers’ faces

By Kehinde Aderemi

Primary school teachers in Lagos State were recently treated to some wonderful moments at a two-day training and capacity development seminar organised by the Goldcrest Family Centre, a non-governmental organisation with offices in Ketu, Lagos.
The Banquet Hall of the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, venue of the event, was filled as participants converged on the venue from all the 20 local government areas and 37 local council development areas of Lagos State.
The event was part of the fourth annual educational programme of the NGO. The aim, according to the organisers, was to re-train the teachers on contemporary teaching techniques and methodology that would enhance their professional abilities. The programme also provided an opportunity for teachers to gain some tips that would improve their knowledge in all aspects of human endeavour.
President of Goldcrest Family Centre, Rev. Agatha Chukwura, restated the need to provide teachers with opportunities to learn because the most important form of investment was education.
“We can only get the best from our teachers if we train them continually to be the best they can be. This workshop and training programme became necessary because it is obvious that our education system is failing. Ordinarily, I always feel bad when I see the generation of students coming out from either secondary schools or tertiary institutions. These are students who have lost touch with the basics. Their foundation is faulty and the best way for us as a nation is to stop the ugly trend right from the base, which is the primary school, the foundation of all educational training. That is why we have also considered it necessary and pertinent to provide primary school teachers in the state the opportunity to learn more. By doing their jobs well as teachers, they can help the nation build solid educational institutions and systems,” she said.
Chukwura also commented on the criteria for effective learning. The teachers, she said, needed to be up and doing in facing present challenges of teaching: “We are in the information age, and nobody could be the best in his or her profession, except such person is computer-literate.”
The workshop included sessions and presentations on topics such as psychology of teaching and emotional intelligence; information and communication technology; health management system; and breathing techniques.
The facilitators also interacted with the teachers. One of them, Mrs. Atilola Folusho, spoke on the topic “Teaching the 21st Century Children.”
She explained that information technology had made teaching and learning fun. Folusho, who is also an author, compared the experiences of pupils trained during the present information age to the pupils of old age, stating that the disparities were very clear.
Other facilitators at the seminar were Mrs. Perpetua Olisa, Mr. Akintayo Stephen, Mr. Sachin Chinsarkar and Dr. Malomo Abimbola.
The question-and-answer session was lively, and the teachers were able to ask questions relating to the course content.
Some of the teachers who spoke to the reporter after the programme said they were impressed with the organisers of the workshop, even as they urged the Lagos State government to support the NGO’ s initiative in order to get the best from teachers in the state.
“I think the officials of Goldcrest have done wonderfully well by organising this seminar. I believe it will go a long way in assisting us,” Mrs. Alade said.
Other participants at the event also noted that of how the seminar had impacted on their careers.
President of GCFC, Chukwura, later presented certificates of participation to all the teachers.
She expressed appreciation to corporate and individual sponsors who backed the initiative. She also lauded the State Universal Basic Education Board for making it possible for the teachers to attend the programme.
“I’m confident that the workshop will make impact on their careers as a whole,”  Chukwura said.

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