Economy

Border reopening: Experts predict 60% rise in vehicle smuggling

Few days after the Federal Government announced the reopening of four land borders, stakeholders, including clearing agents and car dealers, have predicted a 60 per cent increase in the smuggling of vehicles into the country.

The Federal Government had, last weekend, approved the reopening of Idiroko, Jibia, Kamba and Ikom land borders.

This is coming three years after the government shut down land borders due to the incessant smuggling of arms and different contraband goods.

In December 2020, the Federal Executive Council re-opened the country’s four major land borders, which were Seme, Ilella, Maigatari and Mfun. The newly re-opened borders bring the number to eight.

However, in a circular signed by the Deputy Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Enforcement and Inspection, E.I Edorhe, recently titled, ‘Re-opening of Four Additional Nigerian Border Posts’, the NCS directed all Customs formations and Joint Border Patrol Teams to ensure proper manning in compliance with extant operational guidelines.

The circular read in part, “Sequel to the presidential directive dated 16 December 2020 granting approval for the phased reopening of land borders namely, Mfum, Seme, Illela and Maigatari borders across the country, I am directed to inform you that four additional borders stated below have been approved for re-opening.

“The borders are Idiroko border post, Ogun State (South-West Zone); Jibiya border post, Katsina State (North-West Zone; Kamba border post, Kebbi State (North-West Zone) and Ikom border post, Cross River State (South-South Zone).

“Consequently, all Customs formations and JBPTs are to take note and ensure that proper manning takes place in compliance with extant operational guidelines.  Above is forwarded for your information and compliance.”

Meanwhile, a member of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, Segun Musa, predicted that with the reopening of the land borders, there were possibilities that the smuggling of vehicles might rise to about 60 per cent.

Musa, however, admitted that smuggling had been happening even when the borders were closed, noting that the re-opening of the land borders would only give room for officers of the NCS to be compromised.

“There will be a huge increase in smuggling, talking about over 60 per cent increase in smuggling of vehicles. Normally, smuggled vehicles do not pass through those borders, they pass through unguarded borders. Talking about the increase in the smuggling of vehicles, I will say that the newly introduced 15 per cent National Automotive Council levy is the best way to encourage smuggling and then the re-opening of the borders does not help it. Smuggling is just a regular occurrence. As we speak, smuggling has not stopped; it is a regular, daily activity. Re-opening the borders will only allow the officers of the NCS to compromise, though that is not smuggling but compromise. The one we call smuggling are transited through unguarded entry points where we don’t have people manning,” he said.

Also speaking, the Lagos Chapter Chairman of the Association of Motor Dealers of Nigeria, Metche Nnadiwekwe said, “The issue of National Automotive Council will increase vehicle smuggling to, say, 40 per cent. People must always look for shortcuts,” he said.

A member of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, Mr Charles Nwarienne, said that the re-opening of the border would help people bring in vehicles and other goods. “They have re-opened the borders and we cannot see much coming in from them. Ordinarily, you know that before they closed the border, there were jobs coming in from the borders. So, we believe that the purpose of re-opening the borders is to give them clearance to bring vehicles and other goods through the borders. This is my own opinion.”

The National Public Relations Officer of the NCS, Timi Bomodi, was quoted to have said that the importation of vehicles and foreign parboiled rice through the land borders was not allowed.

According to him, the only legitimate border for foreign-used and new vehicles into Nigeria was the seaports.

“Cars can only be imported into the country through the ports, while rice cannot come in at all,” he said.

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