Activities at the Seme and Idi Iroko land borders are now at fever pitch as vehicle importers and auto dealers are rushing to clear their vehicles (new and used) from the borders in order to beat federal government’s December 31, 2016 deadline for the restriction of importation vehicles to the nation’s seaports.
The federal government had earlier in the month announced that from January 1, 2017, there will be no more importation of vehicles through the land borders. The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) had indicated, in a press statement, that the ban is sequel to a presidential directive.
A visit by our correspondent to the Seme and Idiroko borders in Lagos and Ogun states, respectively, showed increased activities at the border points as clearing agents and auto dealers were seen moving from one Customs office to the other to clear their vehicles from neighbouring Benin Republic before the deadline.
Speaking to our correspondent, an executive member of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Elder Timothy Ayokunle, said there had been an increase in the numbers of vehicles cleared at the borders since last week. He told our correspondent that the figures had risen from 180 vehicles in a week to over 300 vehicles since last week.
Elder Ayokunle said: “Those who had already purchased or shipped their vehicles into Benin Republic are in a rush to bring them into the country in order to beat the federal government’s deadline. “People are hurrying to bring in their vehicles, and I can confirm to you that, by last Friday before we went on vacation, auto dealers and importers were in a rush to clear their vehicles.
“For instance, at Idiroko where we do 20 to 30 vehicles in a day, about 45 to 50 vehicles are cleared in a day now. I may not be around today (Wednesday) but some importers have called me (to say) they need their cars by tomorrow (today) because of the deadline.” Speaking to our correspondent, the chairman, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Seme Border Chapter, Chief Ekene Ajunwa, said there was a rush by importers to clear their vehicles at Seme.
“What we have presently is a little bit of rush from auto dealers who want to clear their vehicles to beat the federal government deadline,” he said. Chief Ajuwa, however, wondered why the government would give a short notice for a policy that bans the importation of vehicles through the land borders.
“We have written to the government and complained that there is not enough notice. For instance, what would someone that had shipped vehicles before the policy came on board do? Will they return the vehicles abroad or sell them in Cotonou?” he queried.
Customs public relations officer, Seme Command, Taupyen Selchang, confirmed the last-minute rush by auto dealers and importers to clear their vehicles. “There is rush because of the deadline of the federal government policy. Everyone is trying to meet with deadline. For instance, in a week, at times we used to do about 80 to 100 vehicles, but now we clear about 200 to 300 vehicles in a week.
“Also, most of the jobs that will be done today will be the clearance of vehicles. Because of the deadline, nobody wants to be caught on the other side of the policy. “As a command we are strategising to meet up with the policy of the government. We don’t want to be caught unawares; we have fortified every nook and cranny of the border to ensure strict compliance of the policy,” he said.
Customs public relations officer, Idiroko border, Usman Abubakar confirmed the rush in clearing vehicles at the border. “Yes, people are rushing to clear their vehicles at the Idiroko border because of the deadline,” Usman told our correspondent on phone.