Photograph — Nikkei Asian Review

With the hope that the new bilateral electronic connectivity programme will be effective in addressing inefficiencies along land borders, the Nigerian government is planning to lift the embargo on vehicle imports.

The new electronic initiative was co-developed by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the Customs Service of the Republic of Benin, NCS Comptroller General, Colonel Hameed Ali (retd.) revealed this recently during a stakeholders’ meeting.

According to the official, who was represented by the Assistant Comptroller, ICT, Benjamin Aber, the automated connectivity platform will be deployed on June 20, 2019, and its successful implementation will determine if the ban will be lifted for land importation of vehicles.

The car imports ban came into effect in January 2017 in an attempt by the government to control the rate at which cars and other vehicles were being smuggled into the country. However, reports later emerged that smuggling and other fraudulent practices persisted despite the ban.

“Vehicles were formerly being imported through the Seme border, but suddenly it was banned because the pressure of enforcement of anti-smuggling for vehicles and claiming of lives and revenue were becoming too alarming, so the government had to restrict the importation through Nigerian ports,” Ali revealed.

Further explaining the situation of things that led to the ban, he said when vehicles came through the land border, the Customs did not have a record of how the imported cars came into Nigeria and fake documentation became a common phenomenon.

Documentation problems, smuggling of vehicles, a threat to life, and revenue leaks are just some of the issues the platform is expected to address. Customs of both countries can now digitally exchange information on transported imports from Nigeria and the Republic of Benin.

“By the time we successfully deploy this reliable, transparent and predictable programme that would assist government agencies, not only Customs, to control and regulate the importation of vehicles, the government may decide to relax such restrictions,” Ali remarked.

While this development is commendable in line with the global adoption of digital technology, there are questions over how effective the new initiative will be in ensuring transparency in the Nigerian Customs as well as curbing illegal check-points set-up by officers and other security agencies along the border corridors.

Moreover, there are concerns about whether the initiative will turn out differently from previous similar ones in terms of adequate implementation and maintenance in the long-run.

The public sector in Nigeria is characterised by a very wide implementation gap when it comes to effecting policies or initiatives of whatever nature. The problem, common among many government agencies, is entrenched in corruption, lack of continuity in government policies as well as inadequate human and material resources.

The distance between stated policy goals and the realisation of such planned goals is ever-widening and is compounded by an equally poor maintenance culture in the country, especially when it comes to public facilities and infrastructure.

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