…As ‘Fraudsters exploiting land border vehicle import ban’***
Members of the All Progressives Congress in the House of Representatives and their breakaway colleagues in the Reformed -All Progressives Congress, clashed on Wednesday over the mention of R-APC on the floor of the House.
Although, a quick intervention by the Speaker, Mr Yakubu Dogara, immediately restored order, the signal of a deepening disagreement between the two factions was passed.
The lawmakers on both sides disagreed over R-APC as the House debated a motion asking the Federal Government to conduct the country’s next census in 2019 so that Nigeria could have a realistic population figure for planning purposes.
The motion was moved by a member from Abia State, Mr Osy Prestige, to commemorate the 2018 World Population Day.
Prestige had said since the last census was conducted in 2006, the country had continued to use estimation and “guesswork” as the population of Nigeria, a method he said did not help the government in planning for development.
He stated, “Today, you hear 180 million; in another breath, we say the population is over 200 million. There are no reliable statistics. Let the government conduct a realistic census by the 4th quarter of 2019”, he told the House.
But, drama soon started after a member from Ondo State, Mr Bode Ayorinde, rose to make a contribution to the debate.
Ayorinde, a former Chairman, House Ad Hoc Committee on Recession, stood up to introduce himself as a “proud member of R-APC.”
The description immediately caught the attention of APC members, who started protesting, demanding that Ayorinde should withdraw the mention of R-APC. Some of the members started shouting that R-APC was not known to the House.
The most vocal member leading the protest, Mr Mohammed Bago, raised a point of order, urging Dogara to direct Ayorinde to retract his comment.
The Deputy Whip of the House, Mr Pally Iriase, also advised Ayorinde to “be guided.”
Amid the protest, Ayorinde responded, “I am guided. But, that is by the fact that I have the right to belong to one of the factions. That faction is R-APC. I am a member of R-APC.”
Some Peoples Democratic Party members celebrated the disagreement within the APC camps, with the majority of them taking sides with Ayorinde.
One member from Rivers State, Ms Boma Goodhead, was seen moving from seat-to-seat, telling APC members to let Ayorinde be. Pointing to Bago, who started the protest, she said, “Bago, sit down!”
While this was on, another member from Kwara State, Mr Oluyonu Tope, also stood up to address himself as a “bonafide member of the R-APC.”
Tokpe’s decision to align with Ayorinde, led to a loud laughter on the floor. Dogara cautioned him by saying, “You were only recognised to second a motion, not to tell us which faction of the APC you belong.”
As the order was restored after the mild protest, the House returned to the census debate.
Meanwhile, the Action Democratic Party and the Alliance for New Nigeria, on Wednesday dissociated themselves from the PDP-led Coalition of United Political Parties.
The two parties said this in separate media briefings in Abuja. They spoke against the background of Monday’s Memorandum of Understanding signed by the PDP and 34 other political parties.
National Chairman of the ADP, Alhaji Yabaji Sani, at a press briefing at the party’s headquarters in Abuja, admitted that his party took part in the initial consultations before the formation of the CUPP.
He, however, explained that the party opted out at the point of signing the MoU, when it discovered that those spearheading the coalition were the same people who brought Nigeria to “where it is today.”
Sani said, “Let me say here for the avoidance of doubt that we are not part of the Coalition of United Political Parties.
“It is important to know that those who pushed Nigeria to the precipice are the drivers of the coalition and have nothing new to offer. To collaborate with them is to sleep with strange bedfellows.”
Speaking in a separate media briefing, the National Chairman of the ANN, Mr Jay Samuel, said, “I was invited for a meeting which I wasn’t properly briefed about the agenda of the meeting, and when I got to the meeting and I saw the attendance and what was being discussed.
“I wasn’t comfortable because what was being discussed did not represent what Alliance for New Nigeria as a party believes in. So, I decided to take my leave.”
However, one of the major stakeholders in the CUPP, and National Chairman of the Peoples Progressives Alliance, Chief Peter Ameh, in a statement he signed and made available to reporters in Abuja on Wednesday, described some of the parties as “spineless bootlickers and who cannot and will not stand for anything except something that will give them immediate gratification.”
In the meantime, a licensed customs clearing agent, Mr Khally Momodu, has said that the ban on importation of vehicles through the land border may not be effective as smuggling and other fraudulent practices have persisted.
Momodou, who spoke with our correspondent, lamented that just as genuine Customs brokers were losing business through the policy, the government was also losing revenue and innocent people interested in buying cars were being ripped off by fraudsters.
He said, “The policy is not working; there are a lot of smuggled cars in Nigeria. That is why Customs are seizing smuggled cars every day.
“To make matters worse, fraudsters have capitalised on the situation to dupe innocent car buyers. They will tell you that they can buy a car from Cotonou and clear it for you at the port.
“After paying for the car and collecting the papers, Customs will seize the car and that is when you will discover that the documents are not genuine. No car that comes through the land border can be cleared in Nigeria.”
Momodou suggested that the government should open a platform where importers could pay the duty on cars brought in through the land border to discourage the practice and boost the revenue of government.
The Nigerian Ports Authority had earlier said that government’s revenue from vehicle importation had dropped by 20 per cent.
The Managing Director, NPA, Hadiza Usman, stated this while appearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Ports, Harbours/Waterways.
She pointed out that the drop in revenue was the fallout of another policy, the automotive policy, which was established to encourage local production of vehicles.
The government, through the policy, had raised the duty on car importation to 70 per cent.