Government considers lifting restriction on vehicle imports through Nigeria's land borders

NIGERIA may relax the ban on the importation of vehicles through her land borders following the recent successful implementation of a new initiative by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the Customs Service of the Republic of Benin.

In January 2017 the federal government ordered a ban on importation of vehicles through Nigeria's land borders as part of a drive to address the menace of the country becoming a dumping ground for aged cars. This restriction on the importation of vehicles followed that of rice, whose imports through the land borders had been banned since April 2016 as part of a drive to protect local production.


However,  the government may reconsider its decision after the successful implementation of a new initiative by the NCS and its counterparts in the Republic of Benin to automate and network all electronic information about incoming cargoes through the border. NCS comptroller-general Col Hameed Ali, expressed confidence that with a successful implementation of the bilateral electronic connectivity programme, the federal government might lift the ban on items coming through Nigeria's land border.


He said the decision to stop the importation of vehicles through the border was because the government did not have a reliable system that would assist in controlling importation. However, with declarations made for imports transiting from either of the two countries electronically shared, the process of import and export would be done in a transparent manner and the government seeing such transparency would be convinced to relax its stance on land border importation.


Col Ali said: “Vehicles were being imported through the Seme border but suddenly it was banned because the pressure of enforcement of anti-smuggling for vehicles and the claiming of lives and revenue was becoming too alarming, so the government had to restrict importation to those brought in through Nigerian ports. When vehicles came through the land border, we did not have a record of how the imported cars came here and fake documentation became a common phenomenon.


"The ban was just a control measure against the practice. By the time we successfully deploy this reliable, transparent and predictable programme that would assist government agencies, not only Customs, to control and regulate the importation of vehicles, the government may decide to relax such restrictions.”


He added that the establishment of the automated platform and bilateral connectivity meant that any truck that left the Republic of Benin, the information would already be remotely sent in English to the NCS system. Col Ali also gave the assurance that illegal checkpoints mounted by Customs officers and other security agencies along the border corridors would disappear automatically.


Col Ali added: "The roads also have to be fixed because we cannot automate clearing of goods between the Customs and at the end, the stakeholders would be complaining." He said the new platform would be deployed by June 20.