The Nigerian Customs Service will today commence the verification of all vehicles in the country to track those with genuine from fake documents.
In a circular released early this month, the Comptroller-General of Customs, retired Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali, approved a grace period of one month – 13th March to – 12th April – for owners of all vehicles in the country whose customs duty had not been paid to make the payment.
The service advised all motor dealers and private owners of such vehicles to visit the nearest customs office nationwide to verify and pay the appropriate duty on them.
The order by the customs authorities has, however generated serious controversy among vehicle owners and other stakeholders.
The Senate has also called for the suspension of the exercise and summoned the Customs boss, Hameed Ibrahim Ali to appear before it tomorrow, Tuesday.
The NCS is, however insisting on its stand but with 60 percent duty rebate on all vehicles that are of 2015 model and below. After the deadline, the NCS said it would mount an aggressive anti-smuggling operation, not only at the borders but all roads nationwide to impound any vehicle that did not have appropriate duty papers and prosecute its owner.
“For the avoidance of doubt, all private car owners who are not sure of the authenticity of their vehicles’ customs documents can also approach the zonal offices to verify their status with a view to complying with the provision of the law,” the statement concluded.
Meanwhile, a group called Vehicle Owners Association of Nigeria (VOAN) has issued a seven days’ ultimatum to the Nigerian Customs Service to withdraw the directive that all vehicles whose customs duty have not been paid to have that done within one month.
The group, in a letter to the Comptroller General of Nigerian Customs Service through its solicitor, Tolu Babaleye, said the policy was ill-timed, ill-conceived and directed at the wrong set of people in the country, adding that it would unleash hardship on vehicle owners and also pit the government against the general public.
The group said the buck of failure to pay customs duty on imported vehicles should not be laid on the innocent vehicle owners but rather the dealers who imported those vehicles should be held responsible for circumventing customs checks “probably through the connivance of some customs officers.”