Major players in the Nigerian maritime sector, consisting of freight forwarders and other stakeholders, have lamented the hasty and poor implementation of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), valuation policy employed by the Nigerian Customs Service ( NCS). They pose challenges for smooth general transactional activities in the customs clearance process at Nigerian ports.
Importers and customs terminal operators count the losses during a panel discussion organized by the Maritime Journalists Association of Nigeria (MAJAN) at their secretariat in Kolkata at Apapa in Lagos on Tuesday, June 28, 2022
Stakeholders have decried the vehicle clearance policy which they say has left thousands of automobiles abandoned in ports by their owners.
Freight forwarders strongly deplored and condemned the current unfortunate situation in ports.
They alleged that customs had coerced importers and their agents into adopting a haphazardly devised policy, which now makes all stakeholders, including customs, the losers.
The forum observed that currently, the revenue Customs had expected to make from the policy, otherwise known as VIN assessment, has been on a downward trend, with terminals littered with abandoned vehicles, even as as the cost of automobiles has skyrocketed in the market.
Freight forwarders complained that the policy’s main problem was the valuation of non-standard vehicles – i.e. imported automobiles whose data had not been entered into the customs portal – claiming that their rate of law was outrageous.
On the other hand, they said that for 17-digit vehicles, whose data had been entered into the customs portal, there was no problem in their assessment of duties, attributing the process of customs clearance at ports to more than 90% of the pass mark.
They further observed that some vehicle brands such as Mercedes Benz 2003 M and BMW 17-digit model had not yet been entered into the system, which made it difficult to clear customs.
George Okafor, president of the PTML chapter of the National Association of Government Licensed Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), suspected that the policy of reducing vehicle duty from 35% to 20% could have led to a likely loss of revenue, which which forced customs to set up. VIN evaluation without proper preparation to avoid hitches.
Okafor informed that the original agreement was that the service would test the policy in a particular port for a period of time before making it universal, but that was not the case.
Stakeholders expressed concern and called on the federal government, through the service, to revisit the original policy arrangement of setting the age limit for vehicles at 12 years from nine years, which is now in place without any prior notification.
Similarly, the terminal manager of PTML also complained about the drop in production, according to the management even the customs officers are with the accumulated demurrage.
Stakeholders generally observed that the huge demurrage and high duties caused importers to abandon vehicles in the port as the business had become unprofitable.