By Eromosele Abiodun
The Managing Director of PTML Terminal, Mr. Ascanio Russo has thrown his weight behind the ban on importation of vehicles through the land borders by the federal government.
PTML is the leading dedicated Roll-On-Roll-Off (RORO) terminal in Nigeria, handling the largest volume of vehicles imported into the country.
The company was established in 2003 by Grimaldi Lines to respond to the invitation of the federal government to participate in the development of port facilities in Nigeria.
The company’s operations were, however, negatively affected by the astronomical hike in the import duties of vehicles, leading to a loss of more than 80 per cent of its cargo volume.
The hike in vehicles import duty from 10 per cent to 35 per cent and the imposition of an additional 35 per cent surcharge under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan led to the diversion of Nigeria-bound vehicles to the ports of neighbouring countries and increased smuggling activities.
In a statement released by the company in Lagos, Russo said: “We fully support this ban, which we believe is going to halt the huge import of vehicles for the Nigerian market through the ports of neighbouring countries and the loss of revenues by the Federal Government, the Nigeria Customs Service and private operators.
“We are confident and hopeful that the government may want to go a step further and review downward the level of duties applied on used vehicles to make them affordable for the Nigerian people.”
He said the federal government loses about N200 billion annually to diversion of automobile imports to the port of Cotonou in Republic of Benin.
The amount represents the value of tariff that should have accrued government coffers through the Nigerian Customs Service if the vehicles were imported through Nigerian ports.
He said Nigerian importers are attracted to the Port of Cotonou because of lower Customs duty on vehicles and other imports.
Several other maritime industry stakeholders had, at various times, called on the federal government to reduce the import duty on vehicles to stem the tide of smuggling and revive operations at Nigeria’s RORO ports, which have suffered most from the hike in vehicles import duty.
The Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STAON), Princess Vicky Haastrup, in a statement last week said, “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.”