The policy uncertainty of the present administration coupled with the current high exchange rate of the naira to the US dollar have caused serious downturn in cargo importation into the nation’s seaports and border posts.
Investigation by Nigerian Pilot revealed that many importers have adopted a “wait and see” attitude to their business due to the uncertainty surrounding the Buhari administration’s policy directives.
Making the matter worse is the skyrocketing exchange rate of the local currency to other foreign currencies with the naira exchanging for as high as N230 to the US dollar.
Consequently, according to our findings, importers are no longer placing orders for goods, but are waiting to see the government’s policy direction before further action can commence.
The hardest hit, it has been revealed, are the clearing agents, who rely on their principals (importers) for survival as there is limited jobs to do at the seaports, airports and border posts.
Confirming the development, a chieftain of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, NCMDLCA, Mr. Onyebuchi Obah, described the development as very serious.
He said the ports were almost grounded because “importers are no longer importing” as they are yet to understand the present government’s direction in terms of policy.
“Nobody wants to take the risk of investing his money when he is not sure of what the government’s next line of action would be, adding that the situation is likely to remain so until the authorities come out with a clear-cut policy of where they are heading to.’’
Obah, who is the Managing Director, Ciba Nigeria Limited, also lamented the high exchange rate, which he noted, has made importers to run their businesses at a loss as the naira exchange rate continued to fluctuate.
The NCMDLCA public relations officer, Tin Can Island Chapter, decried the uncertain environment importers had found themselves and urged the government to intervene.
For instance, he said rather than exposing Nigerian businessmen to the vagaries of foreign exchange, government should peg the rate at N65 for them, maintaining that with this, importers would be encouraged to do their business.
“I can tell you that as things are now, no importer will put his money down in an environment where if you procure forex at N185 to the dollar and when the goods arrive your bill is calculated on N230 plus. No business can be sustained this way.
“But if he is sure that if he opens his Form M at N65, N80 or N100 rate and the goods land, his bills are calculated on the same rate, he will be encouraged to remain in business. Unfortunately this is not the situation.”
The frontline customs agent advised the Buhari government to come out with its policy direction so that businessmen would know how to plan their programmes.
He lamented that on top of the uncertainty and dull atmosphere, importers and their agents still receive indiscriminate alerts from the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS.
Obah regretted that such alerts always come from the Customs Intelligence Unit, CIU, Valuation unit, Customs Processing Centre, CPC, Customs headquarters, post-clearance audit, among others.
He lamented that even when one had waded through all these hurdles, the importer and his agent would still contend with the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, Ikeja that lurked around.
He wondered how an organisation would give its customers a clean bill of health only for him to be ambushed again on the way by personnel of the same body on same issues for which he had already been cleared.

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