The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has seized 533 units of vehicles with a duty paid value of N2.92 billion between January and November 2023. Car dealers are attributing this surge in seizures to the high duty rates imposed by the Federal Government, specifically through the Central Bank of Nigeria. The PUNCH investigated the claims made by dealers, shedding light on the challenges faced by the automotive industry and the implications of elevated duty rates on the importation of goods.
- High Duty Rates: Car dealers argue that the consistently high duty rates, influenced by fluctuations in the exchange rate set by the Central Bank of Nigeria, have driven importers to seek alternative means of clearing vehicles. The recent hike in the exchange rate for cargo clearance marked the fourth adjustment within the year, exacerbating the financial burden on importers.
- Smuggling Concerns: The Secretary-General of Lagos State Motor Dealers Association, Tai Olaniran, contends that the elevated duty rates encourage smuggling and the use of unapproved routes for vehicle imports. The increase in duties requires purchasing dollars at higher rates, making the overall cost of importing and clearing vehicles prohibitive.
- Dealers’ Response: To navigate the challenges posed by high duty rates, dealers have reportedly shifted their focus towards purchasing Nigerian-used vehicles instead of directly importing tokunbo (foreign-used) vehicles. They argue that a reduction in duty rates would discourage smuggling and benefit both the government and the automotive industry.
- Government’s Role: Car dealers express dissatisfaction with the government’s approach, urging a reconsideration of duty rates to align with international standards. They believe that lower duties would contribute to increased revenue for the government and curb illegal practices within the industry.
Conclusion: The surge in vehicle seizures by the Nigeria Customs Service underscores the challenges faced by the automotive industry due to high duty rates. Car dealers contend that a reevaluation of duty rates is crucial to discouraging smuggling and ensuring a sustainable and legally compliant importation process. The government’s response to these concerns will likely impact the future dynamics of the automotive sector, influencing both revenue generation and the accessibility of imported vehicles in the Nigerian market.