House Asks FG to Suspend Ban on Importation of Cars Through Land Borders

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• To probe premium of N351bn paid to HMOs
Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The House of Representatives yesterday urged the federal government to suspend its proposed ban on the importation of used vehicles through the country’s land borders, as the policy would cause more hardships for Nigerians who wish to purchase used cars.
The proposed ban is expected to take effect at the end of December.

The House also directed its Committees on Governmental Affairs and Customs and Excise to ensure implementation and report back within six weeks.

The resolution followed a motion sponsored by Hon. Abdullahi Salame (Sokoto APC) who argued that already the percentage of Nigeria who can afford to buy cars: whether brand new or used, have reduced drastically.

This, he attributed to the declining value of the naira, rising inflation, unemployment and high cost of living, in a country where over 80 percent of the populace live on less that $2 per day.

The lawmaker recalled that similar ban on the importation of rice through land borders in April 2016 has caused the price of the commodity to rise from N8000 per bag to between N20,000 and N23,000 per bag in just a few months.

“As it is now, the government has not put in place alternative measures to ensure that Nigerians have access to cars since it is cheaper to buy cars from neighbouring countries and still generate revenue by ensuring that our borders are secured to prevent smuggling, and also that there will not be job losses.”

“The ban will cause more harm than good as it will certainly lead to increase in smuggling, deprive poor Nigerians access to acquiring vehicles, skyrocket the prices of cars cleared at the Wharf, increase inflation and further mount pressure on the already weak naira and lead to idleness, insecurity and criminality at the border points,” Salame added.

Hon. Linus Okorie (Ebonyi PDP) however opposed the motion, saying the minister had powers to make such restrictions under Section 18 of the Customs and Excise Management Act, which allows the government to restrict the movement of goods into and out of Nigeria by land or inland waters.

The motion was passed by a voice vote presided over by House Speaker, Yakubu Dogara.
In another development, the lawmakers resolved to probe the activities of Health Maintenance Organisations (HMO), which have delivered poor services to enrollees, despite receiving N351 billion in the last 11 years of its existence.

It therefore directed its Committee on Healthcare Services, to investigate the allegations against the HMOs, and probe their activities in the past eight years.
It also directed the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to suspend the quarterly releases of  funds to the HMOs, pending the outcome of the House probe.
Hon. Chike Okafor (Imo APC) in a motion accused most HMOs of treating enrollees in degrading manners.

 “They are treated like leprous people while trying to access the services, given that strategies have been adopted by the healthcare providers and HMOs to deprive the enrollees of their rights to qualitative treatment and attention,” he said.
Okafor added that despite the huge money paid to the HMOs, only four per cent of Nigerians are covered.

“The scheme’s benefit packages have many mouthwatering provisions from the primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare levels, but 11 years since their establishment, there has not been much difference because the beneficiaries/enrollees are being shortchanged, services denied, confidence in the scheme eroded and, above all, the core mandate of the scheme has not been achieved,” Okafor said.