Inconsistent import duty charges may push businesses away from Nigeria, says Obi

Former governor of Anambra state, Peter Obi has warned that the inconsistency in duty charges collected at the ports by the Nigerian Customs may eventually push businesses away from Nigeria to neighbouring countries.


The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Wednesday again, for the umpteenth time, increased the rate for Customs duty exchange to N1,605.82/$1.


This development is coming less than five days after it marginally reduced the Customs Exchange rate from N1515.48 to N1472.756\$1


In February alone, the agency has increased the rate seven times, reflecting the volatility in the broader forex market.


Reacting, Obi, who was the Labour Party’s presidential candidate in the 2023 elections, asked the government to stop the arbitrary and ever-increasing customs duties, noting that the government cannot afford to target high customs revenues at the expense of the survival of local businesses, employment and reasonable cost of living.


In a statement posted on his official X handle, Obi said the inconsistencies in the charges are now negatively impacting businesses and the cost of items, warning that it “portends a huge danger to the economy”.


“A situation where at the point of initiating importation, Form M and other documents related to importation are based on a particular rate of exchange, for example, N1000 to $1, being the prevailing exchange rate at the time which the importer of goods was used to calculate the entire process, from the import initiation to receipt of goods in his warehouse,” he said.


“Then suddenly when the goods arrive in Nigeria, and duties are calculated at different rates, say N1400 to $1, it becomes a serious business challenge that results in business losses. Worse still, it directly fuels the inflationary spike which is the basis of increasing cost of goods and living.”


He said such arbitrary charges would lead to further closure of businesses and attendant job losses.


Obi said if the situation is not corrected, importers may resort to using ports of nearby countries — “a situation that will leave our ports under-productive, and further deepen our economy into a worse situation as a result of loss of revenue”.


Obi called on the government to show consistency in its policies, stating that it would help with economic forecasting and business planning.


“Businesses are dying and manufacturers are shutting down because of the poor and inconsistent economic policies of the government, he said.


“We cannot afford to target high customs revenues at the expense of the survival of local businesses, employment and reasonable cost of living.”


Obi, advised the government to support businesses, especially those in the manufacturing sector, to keep them afloat and sustain economic growth, stressing that the “small business sector remains the most critical engine of economic growth”.

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