‘Ban of vehicle import through land borders is misplaced priority’
Okechukwu Ogbonna is the Managing Director of Artix Auto Links Services. The company is into sales of second vehicles. He shares his views on the ban with KINGSLEY JEREMIAH.
What’s your view on the ban placed on importation of vehicles through land borders?
Government is not sensitive to the plight of the people. We have free trade in the ECOWAS region, so I don’t see a reason why any government that knows what is good will ban importation through land borders. Apart from the importers, there are other people who earn their living through such importation. It will adversely affect these people. If the problem is that people smuggle, government should reduce the cost of clearing and other challenges people pass through before they are able to clear their goods. It is not justifiable to ban importation of vehicles through the land borders. Other ports are not functioning across the country. People use land borders in other countries of the world. There are people who survive through importation through land borders. Our government is wicked. Things are easy in Cotonou. Terminal charges are too much here. Terminal charge is above N500, 000 in Nigeria. Cotonou does not have such charges. Government officials are only interested in their welfare. They don’t care about what happens to the people. There is no reason why government must continue to unleash pain on the masses. Government should care for the people. They don’t care about citizens. The numbers of customs checkpoints on the road are too many.
When the auto policy was introduced during the previous administration, they had plans, though myself and some other people were against it. We don’t produce cars in the country and we don’t even have necessary infrastructure to support production of vehicles. Even when we produce like some developed countries, for instance Japan, they still import other vehicles that are not manufactured in their country. In our case, I think it is a misplaced priority for government to begin to ban importation of vehicles one way or the other. We are not ripe for that. Right now the development in the sector is affecting every other businesses in the country, including the banking sector. Most people believe that whatever happens to the automotive sector is not their problem, but it is their problem. The economy needs the sector to move forward.
What are the consequences of this ban on Nigerians?
Whosoever advised the government to ban vehicle importation through the land borders does not have the masses at heart. The president needs to know that the environment is not favourable and any further pain on the masses will increase the plight of the common man. There were so many promises made by the president during his electioneering campaign. A lot of clearing agents voted for the President because they expected that things would change. Government promised to reduce clearing cost. Those who were losing their jobs were hopeful. But with this ban, car ownership will reduce. Illegal means of survival will increase. Prices of vehicles will also increase. Currently, we are experiencing the worst business environment in history. I ran at a loss last year. I have many vehicles at the port that I don’t have money to clear. Government is not encouraging people who are struggling to survive. The people, who are being encouraged, are corrupt people. Customs officials will end getting more money because people will smuggle the more.
One of the basic reasons adduced for the ban is smuggling. Why is this so?
This is not true. If there is anything like that, government is the cause. Like I said earlier, assuming I go to Benin to buy a car no matter the year and the number of days it stays in the port, I pay flat rate. Anytime you have the money you can go and clear your vehicles. Things are better and the government in Benin Republic is reasonable. In Nigeria, government is not sincere. The policies are anti people. Duties are too high. People are not happy to pay tax in this country. Government is killing businesses. Government is exploiting us. We pay duty and still pay customs officials. They need to do something about that aspect of corruption.