The Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) has urged the federal government to review its import policies on rice and automobiles as the policies are having high incidents of smuggling implications from around the borders into the country.
The chairman of the association, Princess Vicky Haastrup, said that the current restriction on the importation of rice and cars into the country does not make any economic sense but that rather neighbouring countries, such as the Republic of Benin and Togo, are the ones benefiting from the restriction.
She said, “Since local rice producers cannot meet the present demand for rice consumption which is 1.7 million metric tonnes per annum, it makes no sense to restrict the importation of the commodity.
“I agree that we must look inwards as a nation but it has to be properly planned and gradual so that we do not lose the revenue accruing from import duty on rice to the ports located in our neighbouring countries.”
Haastrup, who is the chief executive of the concessionaire managing Terminals A and B, and handling mainly bulk cargoes at the Apapa Port, ENL Consortium, said, “As I speak to you all the rice imported into the Republic of Benin and Togo end up in the Nigerian market as a result of the porosity of our borders. Even if we have 24 hours surveillance by security operatives at the land borders, smugglers will still bring in rice into Nigeria through the numerous illegal routes all over the place. Let us not deceive ourselves. We cannot be losing huge revenues while our neighbours are gaining.”
Haastrup said that the National Automotive Policy which was revived by the former administration of Dr Goodluck Jonathan had led to the near collapse of the Ro-Ro (vehicle) terminals operating in the country, saying that while the policy is not entirely bad, its implementation had been unnecessarily hasty.
“The auto policy of the federal government of Nigeria is good. It is a good policy because over time it will help Nigeria and Nigerians to hold their own. It will also arrest capital flight and provide employment opportunities for our teeming youths presently roaming the streets for non-existent jobs. However, the implementation of the policy ought to be in phases and gradual. This is due to the fact that there are many things we ought to put in place before we start the implementation of the policy,” she said.
The ENL boss noted that the country needed to have the infrastructural facilities on ground for manufacturing vehicles, such as regular electricity supply, robust steel industry, and smaller companies making parts. This is because if you buy diesel at the prevailing price to power a generator for the production of a car and add other variables the cost will be so high that it would be beyond the reach of an average Nigerian.
“The cost of the locally produced vehicles would be far ahead of the ones produced overseas. At the end of the day, the essence of the auto policy will be defeated,” she added.
Source : Leadership