Members of the Seaport Terminal Operators of Nigeria (STOAN) have pledged their continued support for the export and economic diversification drive of the federal government.
STOAN, in a statement said some of the steps taken by the government so far indicate that President Muhammadu Buhari is determined to reposition the economy of Nigeria and so should be given the necessary support.
STOAN spokesman, Bolaji Akinola in the statement said the country at the moment needs strategic interventions and focused leadership to transform the economy that has since been dependent on oil.
“There is no better way to transform the economy now than through the economic diversification drive embarked upon by the federal government and STOAN is poised to support the government as it embarks on this onerous but fruitful task of growing the economy.
“The government recently reiterated the determination of the administration to diversify the economy through increased local production of goods and services. This is a welcome development because with a diversified economy, Nigeria would not have to depend on a single commodity to survive as a nation,” he said.
Akinola said that this effort will not only reflate the economy but will also create the right environment for foreign direct investment because of the stability that will be engendered in the system.
He said: “STOAN aligns with the federal government vision of building the economic foundation on made-in-Nigeria goods and services. The diversification efforts will help Nigeria move from import dependence to self-sufficiency in local production and become an export-led economy in goods and services.
“Also this effort by the government will continue to improve the environment and make it conducive for businesses to thrive.”
He said that many of the government’s programmes had been structured to stimulate domestic production, like how to improve the quality of made-in-Nigeria goods to international standards so they can be exported.
“There is need to support SMEs to be able to compete and create the platform to allow recommendations that will help reinvigorate local industries so as to curtail the growing demand for foreign exchange for imported end-user goods,” he added.
The STOAN spokesman said government’s desire to partner the private sector so as to leverage and catalyse resources and development capital is strategic.
He said terminal operators identify with plans by the government to create a business-friendly environment; coherence between monetary, fiscal and structural reform policies; and provision of hard and soft infrastructure for growth.
“The global perception had been that Nigeria is a tough environment to do business; therefore this is a good opportunity to change this narrative as positive perception will attract investors, capital, technology and best practices,” he said.
Meanwhile, the STOAN has commended President Buhari for banning the importation of vehicles into the country through the land borders.
STOAN Chairman, Vicky Haastrup, while reacting to the ban announced by the federal government said the move, if well implemented by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), will reduce the smuggling of vehicles into Nigeria and revive the operations of Roll-On-Roll-Off (RORO) terminals in the country.
RORO terminals are specialised port terminals that handle all types of vehicles.
Haastrup asked the government to take a step further by scrapping the high import duty regime imposed on vehicles by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2013.
According to her, “We are confident of the ability of President Buhari to turn the economy around. The earlier ban on importation of rice, and now of vehicles, through the land borders is a welcome development.
“We are happy that the president has listened to our appeal to reverse incongruous policies inherited by his government from the former administration and which have deprived Nigerian ports of cargoes to the advantage of the ports of neighbouring countries.
“In addition to this ban through the land borders, we appeal to the President to return the import duties on vehicles to 20 per cent from the prohibitive 70 per cent tariff imposed by the former administration.”
“The reversal to the old tariff will serve as an incentive for Nigerians to import legitimately through the seaports and make appropriate payments to government. This will boost revenue collection by the Nigeria Customs Service. It will also lead to the return of lost jobs at the affected ports.
“We also appeal to Customs officers at the border posts to support the Federal Government and the NCS leadership by ensuring that no smuggled vehicle finds its way into the country through the land borders from 1st January 2017 when the new policy is expected to come into effect, ” Haastrup said.
She added that said since 2014 when the 70 per cent hike in the tariff on imported vehicles came into effect, Nigeria had lost 80 per cent of its vehicle cargo traffic to the ports of neighbouring countries.
“Since the high tariff was introduced, importers have resorted to landing their vehicles at the ports of neighbouring countries and smuggling them into Nigeria without paying appropriate duties to government. This amounted to huge revenue loss to Customs. The policy also led to loss of more 5,000 direct and indirect jobs at the affected port,” the STOAN Chairman said.