About three weeks ago, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) commenced implementation of the 35 per cent duty without levy on imported used vehicles as against the June 30th initial deadline, a development clearing agent described as ‘sudden and unexpected’. In this interview with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY’S Shulammite ‘Foyeku, Customs Area Controller, Port and Terminal Multi-Services Limited (PTML) Area Command of the NCS, Comptroller Tunji Aremu explains that the implementation was based on government directive. He also speaks on reasons why operatives of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone ‘A’ sometimes intercept vehicles released from the command among other issues.
How would you react to the allegation from agents that gate officers of the command re-examine containers that have been duly released from the port?
Agents will always want a way out. I don’t see my officers opening a container at the gate. In the first instance, the officers at the gate are not even allowed in the examination bay, they are not even allowed to participate in examination at the terminal. They only need to make use of the report of the examination and exit the container. There is nothing like re-examination of container at the gate. It is an exaggeration; nobody does that among my officers. If there is any concrete evidence to doubt the container exiting, the worst my officer could do is to return it for verification which is in order because it is better to reposition and then recheck instead of just allowing it to exit and later they found out that they have made a mistake. We are in an era where my officers are very vigilant. Everybody is very conscious of what he is doing. Nobody wants to make mistake because mistake can be very costly.
What would you say about the Federal Operations Unit, Zone ‘A’ operatives intercepting vehicles released from this command on the road?
FOU operatives are here for check and balance. There may be some laxity on the part of the releasing officers when they don’t do their work properly the way it should be done. So FOU operatives are to complement what we do. They are like police of the Service. And in some cases, they send underpayment to us and this leads to increment in our revenue generation.
When cases like this arise, I mean if an officer releases consignment with underpayment. Is there any penalty for such officer?
Do you know that the Comptroller General has gone further to ensure that whenever there is laxity on the part of an officer and he allows a container to exit without proper payment of duty that officer is made to pay the under payment? That is the extent to which the laxity should not even exist. The CG has zero tolerance for laxity and he has emphasized that if any officer is caught, he will be made to pay such.
Agents operating at the command recently protested what they term ‘sudden and unexpected’ implementation of the 35 percent duty on imported vehicles and has vowed not to return to work until it is reversed. What is the situation now?
According to the circular, fully built cars falling under HS code 8703 shall attract a duty of 35 percent and 35 percent levy. All fully built imports except used vehicles with bill of lading dated not later than 31st march 2014 and arrival date not later than June 20 2014 will pay the old duty rate irrespective of the days of the opening of form M and the letter of credit. This explains what happen initially, I mean the peaceful protest in March and then government in its wisdom said we should continue with the old rate until the directive that we should commence the 35 percent rate of duty on used imported vehicles without levy till June and that is what we are doing right now. Although the agents protested they are now complying because demurrage will only be accruing for them and that cannot be reverted. Even those that carried their vehicles at 20 percent are reverting back to 35 percent because it is the government policy and there is nothing anybody can do about it. It is not a question of PTML started first. We are only carrying out government fiscal policy. The government said henceforth that used vehicles formerly at 20 percent rate of duty should now attract 35 percent duty rate. We have appealed to the agents that this is not a directive from Nigeria Customs service but from the federal government which we have to adhere strictly to and that is what we are doing. We are not doing anything outside government directive.
For clarity sake, how much duty rate does a new vehicle attract now?
Used vehicle will be imported at 35 percent duty without levy till 30th June 2014 while new vehicles attracts 20 percent duty rate and when you talk of new you are referring to 2013,2014 cars but the big ones like jeep still carries 35 percent duty which they (agents) know, there is no controversy about that. Immediately the circular came we have no option than to implement and we called the officials of the licensed customs agents to intimate them about it.
After the June 30th deadline, what duty rate will new vehicles bear?
Cuts in……. I don’t know. Don’t let me pre-empt the government policy. I have just read it out from the circular now stating without levy till 30th June 2014.So what is going to happen after that date I don’t know.
Manufacturers association of Nigeria (MAN) recently accused customs of wrong interpretation of government fiscal policies. How would you react to this sir?
There is no wrong interpretation of government policies anywhere. Manufacturers association of Nigeria knows the truth. Like I said, we are only complying with government directive. If you live here now and there is another directive from the head quarters, we are going to implement it.
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