Maritime lawyers oppose 15% imported vehicle levy

Agency Report
Agency Report
File photo: Cars on display

AS the controversy surrounding the introduction of 15 per cent National Automobile Council levy on imported vehicles lingers, some maritime lawyers have demanded court intervention as a way of resolving the matter.

The Nigeria Customs Service had recently introduced a 15 per cent NAC levy on used imported vehicles, a decision which didn’t go down well with clearing agents in the country’s maritime sector.

The agents have argued that the NAC levy is mostly meant for new vehicles, questioning the rationale behind the introduction of the duty on used vehicles.

In a quick response, the service, in a statement by the National Public Relations Officer, Timi Bomodi, said the move was in compliance with the Economic Community of West Africa Common External Tariff.

But a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Jean-Chiazor Anishere, said that the imposition of the 15 per cent levy on imported vehicles was wrong.

Anishere, who is also an ex-officer member of the Nigerian Maritime Law Association, said the levy’s imposition should be restrained by a court order.

“To me, the act of the Nigerian Customs Service is inimical to ‘having a second bite of an apple.’ It is wrong and irregular and such act should be restrained by a court order.”

On whether there are plans by the group to file a court case against the service, she said, “No plans because the NMLA needs to be approached formally.”

Also speaking, another maritime lawyer, Alban Igwe, said although the move was geared towards supporting local vehicle manufacturers, the government was not even giving enough support to local vehicle manufacturers.

He also said that Nigerians patronised more fairly used vehicles than new ones.

“The government would want to promote the local car manufacturing. I guess they have started by stopping the rival which is the newly manufactured vehicles, but I think it looks like Nigerians are acquiring more fairly used vehicles than the new ones. So, they knew that the competitor is not the newly manufactured vehicles, but now the fairly used vehicles, which is why they want to extend the jurisdiction to fairly used vehicles.

“Well, the implication is that if the government really wants to protect the local industry first, the government will have to support those local manufacturers so that they can manufacture at very good costs. It is the market forces that determine where you buy. If I can buy new vehicles in Nigeria from Innoson at N5m and I can buy a fairly used one at the same N5m, then I rather buy a new vehicle with a guaranty.”

He called for more support for local vehicle manufacturers from the government, adding that by so doing, the manufacturers of new vehicles would survive.

“The government will have to support the local manufacturing industry so that they will manufacture at good costs. It should be a business model and the manufacturers will now have the means to market their products very well so that people will know what they have. And, of course, the quality of the products should meet international standards because people are not just buying to drive, they also want products that will meet the international standards.”

Igwe said that by slamming the 15 per cent NAC levy, the government was simply forcing people to tilt towards patronising local manufacturers.

“The moment you call something a levy, it has an implication. A market model, which is the best, means that the government should promote their local manufacturing industry so that they can manufacture at very competitive rates, and there won’t be any need for the levy. When you begin to slam a levy, it means you have removed the issue of options. So they are forcing people to tilt towards patronising local manufacturers.

“The propensity to buy vehicles in Nigeria is increasing. Those who are importing are lamenting that the government is not subsidising their import, which means the cost of importation is very high. If it is like that, it is going to affect the end-users. It will affect even public transport, but that market must be open. The government has not supported the transport sector. Globally, when the transport is inefficient, it affects other sectors,” he concluded.

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