Stakeholders caution against ‘hasty’ implementation of auto policy
STAKEHOLDERS in the maritime sector have cautioned the Federal Government against what they described as ‘hasty’ implementation of the National Automotive Policy introduced in 2013.
Speaking at a ‘Town Hall Meeting on the National Automotive Policy’ put together by Ships & Ports Communication in Apapa, Lagos, they advised necessary government agencies to ensure that auto assembly plants start rolling out locally assembled vehicles before the policy is implemented.
They also accused some auto assembly plants of allegedly hiding under the policy to import fully-built units of vehicles under the guise of semi-knocked down (SKD) units with the intention of defrauding the government of import duty.
The Comptroller General of Customs, Alhaji DIkko Abdulahi, who was represented at the event by the Assistant Comptroller General, Tariff & Trade, Banke Adeyemo said Customs officers have in the past recorded instances where importers removed the tyres from fully built imported vehicles and claim they are SKDs with the intention of paying less duty to government.
In his presentation, Director General of the National Automotive Council (NAC), Aminu Jalal, an engineer, said Nigeria spent about $7.5billon on importation of imported new, used and spare parts into the country in 2013 alone.
Jalal said Nigeria had a growing middle class of 40 million people with a potential vehicle market of one million units annually.
The NAC DG, who was represented by the agency’s Director of Industrial Infrastructure, Kolapo Odetoro, an engineer, however said the country must check its huge spending on foreign exchange used to import vehicles into the country.
Odetoro said: “The local manufacturers of vehicles will therefore not only create wealth but generate a large number of Small and Medium Enterprises.
“It would create employment, boost our local engineering capacity through spillover effects and develop our local raw materials.
“NAC is already working with the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the Nigeria Customs Service on this issue. Measures to control vehicles smuggling through the control of vehicle registration system are being worked out.”
In his submission, the Chairman, Nigerian Ports Consultative Council (PCC), Otunba Kunle Folarin said, “We should ask ourselves whether the investors can sustain competiveness, slow growth economy or change in the mobility of people. When there is an alternative transport mode, will it affect the demand of the policy?”
The Deputy President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Fred Akokhia said that the policy is a catalyst for industrialization in the country.
He however advised the government not to rush into implementing the policy.
“Government should not rush into implementing the policy rather they should check for what led to the mistakes of the past in order not to repeat it. We should do it in a way that when we come out of it, it would be a near perfect policy,” Akokhia said.
The National Publicity secretary of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Kayode Farinto described the auto policy as “dead on arrival”.
He queried why NAC has failed to use the money generated under the two percent NAC levy to develop the automobile industry.
“NAC should empower various higher institutions so that they could do research and develop new technologies.
“We must ensure that there is stable electricity because without stable electricity, we can’t get the policy right,” he said.
NAC recently reiterated its commitment to strengthen its partnership with Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and others government agencies in the development of a portal for all vehicles imported into the country.
Director General of NAC, Aminu Jalal, who visited NSC head office in Lagos, said the proposed vehicle portal is expected to play key role in the registration of vehicles in the country through the use of Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
He said NAC has has opened negotiation with a South African bank on how to help stakeholders in the maritime sector finance the purchase of new trucks.
According to him, representatives of the bank has opened an office in Nigeria where to aid the transaction process.