Freight forwarders operating at the nation’s seaports, including the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) have expressed different opinions on the directive given by the Comptroller General of Customs, Col Hameed Ali (Rtd) over vehicles that were detained by Customs.
Shipping Position Daily recalls that, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd.) recently directed that henceforth, all vehicles detained or subject to detention should be released to their owners after payment of correct customs duty and the 25% penalty.
It will also be recalled that the circular however noted that all vehicles seized and taken into customs custody (condemned by competent court of jurisdiction in accordance with the provision of Section 167 of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) Cap C45 LFN 2004) should not enjoy the privilege consented above.
But, reacting to this, the founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Boniface Aniebonam described it as one of the most popular policy initiatives that the government had taken.
He further observed that it was quite interesting to issue the directive as the subject matter, even as he advised the government to separate absolute prohibition and prohibition other than trade of prohibited goods.
“What I am talking about is trade goods that are under prohibition; could be as a result of fiscal policy of government and so, when you go contrary to that, there should be a penalty for that because it is contained in the customs law. So, they have taken the right decision and I doff my cap for the Comptroller General of Customs”, he said.
While maintaining that the law was extant, he reminded the trading public that the Customs service had not suspended the customs law noting that the leverage the customs had given by opening the window for people to pay their duty was not everlasting as it was within a reasonable time.
“This could be a fall out from the suspension of the auto policy, don’t forget that the Comptroller General of Customs had already made an appeal to the government to take a second look at matters of rate of duty for vehicles because the rates are high, including the levy”
“It will create a lot of problem for people to pay such amount of money and that has increased the smuggling activities through unapproved routes” he said.
Meanwhile in a separate interview with newsmen in Apapa last week, the National Vice President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Dr. KayodeFarinto argued that the directive had no direct impact on the industry.
He said that the move would only impact on the revenue of the Nigeria Customs Service as according to him, the service was only out to boost its revenue profile.
“They have also seen that they are likely to have problem in the area of auction, that is why they are bringing in this initiative”, he submitted.
He however agreed that the action of the Comptroller General of Customs was backed by the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA), which he said prescribed stiffer penalty on account of default by any individual or group.
“It does not really have any effect on the business, but what they failed to tell us is that after this, there may not be this window again because they have succeeded in encouraging those that succeeded in bringing in their vehicles through illegitimate means meanwhile some people must have paid through their nose from the seaport”
“It is not a enough deterrent, it will be enough deterrent if part of these vehicles have been condemned, government seized them and sell them to the poor, it will serve as deterrent but this one that they are doing, it is like beating a child with one hand and still patting him with the other hand”
“But this one they are doing now, they will just say, let us give them up to three months, Customs will still call us to come and pay duty and collect our vehicles. It is not serving as deterrent, it is a cosmetic approach and it is a carrot and stick diplomacy”, he said.