False declarations: Customs knocks freight forwarders, associations

nigeria customs


The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has sounded a note of warning to freight forwarders who have penchant for cutting corners as exemplified in false declarations and illegal deductions in customs values.

In a statement, a Deputy Comptroller of Customs, Timi Bomodi, stated that the Customs is on top of its game to ensure that sanity is maintained in the Nigerian business community.

According to him, some executive members of these associations have long abandoned their responsibilities in entrenching professionalism among their colleagues, noting that they have forgotten their oath of honesty in their dealings with government and have taken to the pursuit of power for personal aggrandizement. 

Meanwhile, he reiterated the agency’s commitment to providing efficient and effective service delivery within the ambit of the law and executive orders

He added, “They have attempted to use their positions to procure favours for themselves and their companies. When confronted with the force of reason, they have resorted to threats and blackmail. Incapable of articulating their positions in reference to our books of laws, they have resorted to intimidation, and have even facilitated physical attacks on our officers. In all these situations officers of the Nigeria Customs have refused to be cowed.”

He stated that the Nigeria Customs have remained resolute in its commitment to government by towing the path of honor, stressing that its achievements in revenue collection and anti smuggling speak for themselves.

“The current management under the watch of the Comptroller General, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd.) has shown exceptional leadership in this regard,” he added.

In his words, “Our systems have been put through a good number of iterations. From ASYCUDA I, II, & ++, to NICIS I & II. We are currently at the verge of migrating to E-Customs, which will herald a new epoch, as all Customs activities will be electronically enabled. The simplification, harmonisation, and automation of Customs activities is in tandem with World Customs Organisation (WCO) and World Trade Oragnisation (WTO) objectives for trade facilitation. Our commitment to this reality is unshakeable and our actions bear testament to our resolve.”

He acknowledged that trade compliance is a sine qua non for trade facilitation, adding that where the level of compliance is low, the level of control becomes high, saying that some agents and customs brokers have taken abnormalities as rights while also assuming the role of activists encouraging illegal behaviours.

“This cannot be acceptable as no government agency worth its name will allow itself to be swayed by the whims and caprices of those whose actions they are supposed to superintend. Indeed it will be a complete dereliction of duty if we succumb to these and other attempts,” he said.

He noted that the disposition of NCS management is neither authoritarian nor archaic, saying its actions have always been guided by Federal Government policy decisions in line with international agreements and conventions on trade.

“Contrary to their claims, there has been no attempt to arbitrarily increase the license fee of Customs licensed agents. It is important to note that the fees payable by Customs licensed agents are as approved by law outlined in section 156 of CEMA as amended. The only recourse to a revision in fees can only be as dictated to by extant laws,” he said.

Explaining further, the Deputy Comptroller of Customs said for arbitrary increase in Customs duty, there are two main avenues for the adjustment of duty payable to government that a Customs officer can legally activate, stressing that where the transaction value declared for an item is questionable and where the classification of the item is wrong.

He said the former refers to the declared CIF value, while the later concerns the HS code for that item.

“Part II of the Common External Tariff (CET) prescribes ‘General Rules for the interpretation of the Harmonised System’. There are six rules in total and they provide clear, unambiguous guidelines for the classification of all goods under the CET. These rules are not subject to the interpretation of Customs officers alone as they are captured in simple English for the enlightenment of all persons equipped with the proper understanding of that language. In addition to the interpretative rules are chapter headings and the explanatory notes which are designed to further highlight grey areas both of inclusions and exclusions as deemed appropriate for classification purposes,” he said.

He said the issue of value has also been comprehensively addressed in the WTO Agreement for Customs value adopted in Article VII of General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs, 1994, highlighting that this agreement provides a Customs valuation method primarily based on the transaction value of the imported goods, also known as either the price actually paid or payable for the goods when sold for export to the country of importation.

He pointed out that freight being an important consideration for assessing value needs to be highlighted, saying that in recent times there has been sharp increases in shipping cost across the globe occasioned by the effects of the pandemic

He said the cost of freight alone is one out of three components which when added up, defines the value for duty while the others are the cost of the product itself and the insurance payable for the goods in transit, otherwise known as the Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF) value.

“Where the value of the goods remain constant, but the freight rate changes, it will have an effect on the total CIF value of the goods assessed for duty. In this case the transaction value must be a true representation of the actual monetary component of the exchange. In addition to this is the increase in exchange rate. Where all other components of value remain constant, the exchange rate alone can trigger increases in value for duty,” he noted.

“It is therefore curious to observe individuals insisting on retaining the same historical values contrary to abundant current evidences. What the Nigeria Customs Service has been inundated with are fictional representations of this monetary component, which bear no resemblances to present realities. In truth a good number of Customs agents and importers have been connected with this unwholesome practice,” Bomodi said. 

He stated that the recent installation of scanners at a few ports will address the challenge of physical examination of goods as it looks forward to its full engagement as it will no doubt help to facilitate trade. 

“We are also mindful of the impact our actions can have on legitimate traders, that is why we have provided avenues for the expedited clearance of goods under fast track and other facilitative channels for businesses with unblemished records,” he added. 

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