Customs agents, shippers, disagree over vehicle duty policy

Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ali
Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ali

The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and the Shippers’ Association Lagos State have disagreed over the one-month grace given by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) concerning payment of vehicle duties.

Both bodies expressed diverse views in interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Lagos.

The national president of ANLCA, Olayiwola Shittu, advised the Customs Service to make the deadline for duty payment on vehicles open-ended, saying the policy would check smuggling.

The president, Shippers Association Lagos State, Jonathan Nicol, described the Customs policy on vehicle duty as outdated and not in conformity with the current trend in world trade.

Mr. Shittu said that such a policy should be extended or be open-ended so that the duty on some vehicles that passed through Customs and not properly cleared, would be paid.

The Customs agent said if Customs pushes through its policy, vehicles owners would be forced to pay duties on vehicles that were not cleared but found their ways into the country.

He said the new policy would discourage smuggling along the land border areas

“Anybody who has a vehicle imported through the land border should check with Customs, if correct duties were paid.

“Some people go to Cotonou to buy vehicles and they pay duties, while the smugglers take them through unapproved routes.

“Anyone who finds himself in such a position will be embarrassed,” Mr. Shittu said.

Mr. Nicol decried the insistence of Customs to apply the new policy on vehicles that are already in use.

Mr. Nicol described the policy as “outdated”, saying that such a policy did not conform with the current trends in world trade.

“Customs should go back to the drawing board if smugglers beat their network,’’ he said.

He said there was no vehicle that passed through the border without paying duty, whether official or non-official.

The Chairman, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Seme Border, Bisiriyu Lasisi-Danu, commended the efforts of Customs in issuing an ultimatum for payment of duties on vehicles to avoid seizures.

“The Comptroller-General of Customs says if anyone has a car and such a person knows he has not paid duty, such a person should visit Customs zonal offices and pay.

“If any car user did not pay duty on his car, Customs should go after the owner and seize the car for not paying duty.

“I have told some of my friends whose vehicles have been impounded one way or the other, to go and pay.

“Those affected should go to Customs Zonal Offices to pay the duty and the person will be free to move around with the car, “ Mr. Lasisi-Danu said.

He praised Customs for being on the “right track”.

The ANLCA chief said that government would soon link Vehicle Identification Number with Local Government, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and Customs for easy identification.

A maritime Lawyer, Tino Buoro, said “Customs is a statutory body that must act within the law’’.

Mr. Buoro said that, “If anybody does not comply with Customs directive on duty payment for vehicles, such a person would face the consequence.’’

The Customs Public Relations Officer, Zone “A”, Ephraim Haruna, said one of the Automobile Associations sought the support of Customs to create a platform for payment of duties.

Mr. Haruna said the association wanted to ensure that smuggled vehicles do not escape duty payment.

According to him, this is why Customs gave a month’s grace to enable all vehicle owners who had yet to pay duty, to do so.

“Many car owners who have not paid duties have been calling our zonal office and some had been calling on phone that they want to come and pay duties on their vehicles,“ Mr. Haruna said.

He said that Customs had made all necessary arrangements for the payment.

The Customs Public Relations officer, Tin-Can Island Customs Command, Uche Ejesieme said, “New vehicles attract 35 per cent duty and 35 per cent levies while used vehicles attract 35 per cent duty and 5 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT).

Last week, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, approved one-month grace for all car owners who had not paid duties to do so or face outright seizure.

The Acting Public Relations Officer of the NCS, Joseph Attah, told NAN that the one-month window started from March 13 and will end by April 12, for car owners to pay the appropriate duty on their vehicles.

Mr. Attah said some owners of vehicles brought into the country through the land borders, obviously, did not pay duty.

He advised that owners of such vehicles should go and comply by paying the duty.

Mr. Attah listed four Customs Zonal offices where authenticity of Customs duty could be verified; such as Zone A Headquarters, No 1, Harvey Road, Yaba, Lagos; and Zone B Headquarters, Kabala Doki, Kaduna, Zone C Headquarters, Port Harcourt and Zone D Headquarters, Yelwa Tudu Road, Bauchi State.

Mr. Attah said that any vehicle owner in doubt about the authenticity of his Customs documents, could approach the aforementioned zones closest to him to verify.

He said after the deadline, Customs would embark on an aggressive anti-smuggling operation to seize vehicles as well as prosecute the owners. (NAN)

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