He called the Government to provide modern equipment so they could perform effectively.
“The modern scanners should be provided to enable them detect hidden prohibited items in the containers and trucks. We appreciate them. They have been doing 100 percent examination of cargos. This is tedious and time consuming. I think they should be encouraged.
“The agencies in charge of the border stations should be encouraged so that they will put in their best in the war against smuggling. Smuggling is anti-economy and every hand must be on deck to fight it and bring it to the barest minimum”, he said.
Also speaking on the reason why smuggling is persisting, Bolaji Akinola, spokesman for Sea Ports Terminal Operators of Nigeria (STOAN), said that there are two reasons importers and their agents shun Nigerian Ports and prefers taking their cargoes to neighbouring countries of Togo and Republic of Benin not necessarily high charges by terminal operators.
He said that first is that they are either avoiding high costs of clearance or have intent to smuggle.
“To talk about excessive charges by service providers is a rouse, it is not real. Our ports are expensive agreed, but why?, because of high cost of clearing goods in the ports. Not because of the charges of service providers, definitely not terminal operators and definitely not because of what the shipping companies are charging because you and I know that the free trade are at their lowest ebb at the moment.
Terminal operators’ charges believe it or not, represents about 2.5 per cent of the total cost in the logistic chain, whereas, the cost of cargo clearance represents about 80 percent. That is where the complaints is, in that clearance and that is where you have not just customs, multiple government agencies and the delays associated with that.
Effective policing, though necessary, is by no means sufficient to tackle the menace of smuggling in view of the over 1400 illegal entry points into the country according to data from the Nigeria Customs Service. Besides, it is difficult to adequately patrol the nation’s borderlines of over 4,000 kilometres.
Mr. Dele Oluwafemi, a Lagos-based clearing agent, posited that the porous nature of Nigeria’s borders is a major obstacle to the efforts of the custom to fight the influx of smuggled items into the country.
He stated that smuggling is a global phenomenon and that even, “if all arms of customs are posted to the borders, smuggled items would still find their way into the country.”
The clearing agent said that smuggling would persist along the country’s borders because some people will always want to take short cut and break the law.
According to Muda Yusuf, the Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) , smuggling became a booming business when the government practically imposed ban on importation of some commodities, especially rice, through land borders..
He argued that the huge difference in the price of goods in Nigeria and the neighbouring countries encourages greatly smuggling of commodities through the country’s massive porous borders.
Speaking on the smuggling of rice into the country through the land borders, he said: “Before now, we have been told that importation of rice has dropped by 90 per cent and that local rice production has increased to almost six million metric tonnes. I do not believe in those statistics; I believe that there is still a big gap between domestic production and domestic demand.
“So that is a major issue. This is because we have not been able to build the capacity of local production. Many of the rice farmers and value chain are still cultivating through the traditional means. The level of mechanisation is still very low, and productivity is still very low, so we need to address these key issues. Until we are able to close the gap between domestic production and domestic demand, smuggling will not stop. This is because the demand is in excess of seven million metric tonnes and the local production is not up to 4 million metric tons,” he further noted.
Also responsible for the growing menace of smuggling, he said, is the cost of domestic commodities, which is higher than the imported ones.
“High cost is another factor that is aiding smuggling, which ideally, the locally produced rice ought to have been cheaper. This is so because the average man is looking at how to feed his family with a very low budget, so he goes to the market and look for what is cheap to buy,” he added.
The LCCI Director-General, however, noted that it was high time that the government came to terms with the realities on ground, and does less of propaganda.
He urged government to stop saying that the country shall be self-sufficient in rice production in 2019, whereas the market situation is not saying so.
“The government should work out possibilities on how to enhance productivity in rice production so that they can go fully mechanised and bring down their cost. If the price is low, it is easier to defeat smuggling because people would buy what is cheap,” he maintained.
For Oluwaranti Aremu, a Lagos-based entrepreneur, polices of the Nigerian government encourages smuggling along the land borders.
According to him, poor infrastructure in Nigeria leads to high cost of production, adding that goods manufactured and produced in the country costs more than the imported ones.
This, he argued, makes people to prefer to buy imported smuggled products.
He, however, called on government to provide infrastructure and make the Nigerian business environment friendlier, adding that if this were done, and the cost of production will go down.
He posited that if the cost of Nigerian goods goes down, Nigerians will buy them and stop patronising imported smuggled goods.
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Author: Our Correspondents