The Senate yesterday reviewed the Federal Government’s ban on the importation of vehicles through the land borders and described it as an anti-people policy that can further impoverish the citizens.
Consequently, the lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected the policy, and called on the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to immediately suspend its implementation which started on January 1, 2017.
The ban, if lifted, will boost the opportunity for more Nigerians to own cars because they will be cheaper, as the cost of clearing vehicles coming into the country through the ports is higher, compared to what is paid at the land borders.
The Senate took the decision while adopting a motion sponsored by Barau Jibrin (APC, Kano North).
Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu who presided, specifically urged President Muhammadu Buhari to listen to the cries of Nigerians and rescind the decision.
“From the contributions made, it is obvious that the policy is unpopular. We are representatives of the people and the people have spoken through us that they do not want this policy. I think those in government should listen to them,” Ekweremadu said.
The Senate also directed its Committee on Customs and Excise to investigate the circumstances that led to the sudden decision of the Federal Government on importation of vehicles through the land borders.
Defending his motion earlier, Jibrin explained that the ban would lead to loss of about 500,000 jobs by the people who engage in the business of vehicle importation and handling services at the borders and around the country.
Former Senate leader, Ali Ndume, said: “Let us not forget the fact that the constitution says the primary responsibility of government is the security and welfare of the people. This policy will render so many small businesses useless. My constituents are disturbing me to ensure that this policy is reversed.
“The era when people stay in their offices and make policies that are detrimental to the welfare of the people is gone. I call on this Senate to pass this motion with teeth. This resolution should be implemented when passed,” he stressed.
Dino Melaye of the APC from Kogi West said: “We are in a precarious situation in this country. We are at a time when people are not sure where the next meal will come from. This government needs to consider the welfare of the people. In enacting any policy, we must look at the social impact. As a parliament, we must speak in the interest of the people. We should be seen to be defending the people we are representing here.”
Former Ebonyi State governor, Sam Egwu, described the policy as unpopular.
“This is a government that is supposed to bring change and succour to the people. But they have brought hardship on the people. This Senate must stand with the people. We need to defend the people. This government should come up with policies that are beneficial to the people.”
The committee headed by Hope Uzodinma, is expected to report back within two weeks.
But in a reaction, the Chairman, Automobile and Allied Sectoral Group of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industries (LCCI), Oseme Oigiagbe said the rejection of the policy would encourage importation against local manufacturing of vehicles, adding that it would defeat the objectives of the automotive policy of the Federal Government.
The Deputy Managing Director, Kewalram Chanrai Group, Victor Eburajolo said the rejection would encourage illegitimate jobs.
“People should have legitimate jobs and we should not support smuggling. Clearing agents will be adversely affected. We need to bring every vehicle to the port”, he said.
However, the Managing Director of Artix Auto Links Services, Okechukwu Ogbonna lauded the Senate’s stand, insisting that reversing the policy would create a favourable environment for dealers who import through the land borders as well as prevent job loss and price increase.
Also yesterday, the Senate confirmed the appointment of Anthony Ayine as Auditor General of the Federation (AuGF).
President Buhari had in a letter to the Senate President Bukola Saraki on December 13, 2016, sought confirmation of Ayine as the next Auditor General of the Federation.
The confirmation followed the presentation of the report of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts led by its Chairman, Andy Uba.
Presenting the report, Uba said, though there were petitions against Ayine, his competence was not disputed. The panel, therefore, recommended that he be confirmed.
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki yesterday again visited the Presidential Villa where he met with President Buhari behind closed doors.
In a brief interview with State House correspondents on why he was in the Presidential Villa, Saraki said: “You know (the need for ) getting the government going, getting the National Assembly moving, and as you know there is nothing more important to us now than the budget process and the work we need to do in those areas.”
Meanwhile, Saraki has directed the management to carry out a comprehensive human resource audit in the National Assembly.
In a letter signed by his Chief of Staff, Isa Galaudu, and addressed to the Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, it was stated that the measure was aimed at “verifying the skills, efficiency and motivation of the employees of the National Assembly.”