Stakeholders in the furniture, joinery and allied, as well as the textile sectors, have condemned the Federal Government’s lifting of the ban on the importation of finished furniture and textiles.
They accused officers of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, of feeding fat on the development as they allegedly collect bribes from importers and their agents to clear furniture as an alternative to duty payments in the bank.
Comptroller-General of the NCS, Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko, had on Tuesday disclosed that Nigerians can now import furniture and textile materials subject to payment of the right duty because they were no longer prohibited goods.
At the launch of the implementation of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Common External Tariff, CET, Dikko said that the items were removed from the prohibition list in line with the laws guiding the CET regime.
“Textile, furniture and others have become dutiable as both commodities have been removed from the Import Prohibition List and it is going to be implemented,” Dikko said.
In a swift reaction yesterday, President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, said the body had written a letter to the Customs’ headquarters in Abuja, demanding explanation on the recent policy and the fate of the furniture industry.
Aniebonam questioned events at the ports, where he alleged that operators had to pay their way through field Customs officers before they could have their items exited from the ports.
Also, the Furniture and Allied Products Manufacturers Association of Nigerian, FAPMAN, decried the lifting of the ban on certain imported items, especially furniture by the Federal Government. It maintained that the un-banning of the items had negative consequences on the sector and the economy since the industry had made appreciable growth in recent years.
President of FAPMAN, Mr. Segun Adetiba, said imported furniture should remain banned so that local producers can reap from their investments.
He noted that the decision of the Federal Government to lift the ban on the items at this time might have negative consequences on local manufacturers, as most of them would be forced to abandon production for importation.
Adetiba feared that the development could lead to job loss, aggravate unemployment, criminal activities, insecurity of lives and property and the strangulation of the local market, as patronage of locally made products might decline.
He said: “We don’t want what happened to the textiles industry to happen to furniture manufacturers. Most companies will be sold off in order to enjoy the cost advantage of importation rather than manufacturing, and the problem of curbing losses through smuggling may still persist due to the porosity of the Nigerian gateways.”
Adetiba explained that in the last five years, the local furniture industry had recorded appreciable growth due to the response to FAPMAN’s request on government to ban the importation of furniture.
“FAPMAN disagrees with the Federal Government’s position to unban certain furniture items because of the existing infrastructural gap which may push many local manufacturers out of production,” he stated.
The association said the government’s action could cause the relocation of local manufacturers to neighbouring countries where there are better infrastructure like adequate power supply and friendlier tax regimes.
Also for established firms and individuals, the ban will only help them in feathering their nests through dumping of local production in favour of importation since they can muster the resources to do so, but lamented that upcoming and young industrialists were at risk of extinction.
The association further argued that rather than curb losses through smuggling, as the government holds, the new policy would worsen the situation, given the porous nature of the nation’s borders and Customs.
The association recommended that pioneer status must be given to the local manufacturers through FAPMAN; ban on furniture products until when there would be adequate infrastructure in the power sector to enable manufacturers produce without interruption, and compete favourably with the foreign manufacturers.
The government was also urged to be proactive in identifying smugglers of prohibited furniture items to aid Economic Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC’s investigation on their activities on money laundering, while FAPMAN expressed readiness to work with government to identity fake furniture products from any country.


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