Nigeria’s upper legislative chamber, the Senate has asked the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to suspend its policy on seizing vehicles owned by Nigerians and on which duty has not been paid.
Customs had given owners of such vehicles a deadline of April 12 for payment of the so-called unpaid Customs duty, threatening to prosecute those who do not comply with its directive.
“The Comptroller-General of Customs, Col Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd) has approved a grace period of one month, between Monday 13th March to Wednesday 12th April 2017 for owners of all vehicles within the country whose customs duty has not been paid to do so,” Customs spokesman, Joseph Attah, had said this in a statement last week.
“The CGC therefore calls on all persons in possession of such vehicles to take advantage of the grace period to pay appropriate duties on them, as there will be an aggressive anti-smuggling operation to seize as well as prosecute owners of such smuggled vehicles after the deadline of Wednesday 12th April, 2017,” Attah added.
But in a motion on Tuesday, Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Na’Allah, urged the upper legislative chamber to look into to the planned action.
He prayed the Senate to direct customs to “stop all actions” until it appeared before its committee on Customs.
The senate then directed the service to suspend its planned action.
Speaking on the motion earlier, Dino Melaye, a senator from Kogi west, had said it was impossible to import and to clear a vehicle without the “knowledge and collaboration” of customs officer.
“We should not pay for the incompetence of the Nigeria Customs,” he said.
After debating the issue, the upper legislative chamber passed a resolution that the policy be suspended, and summoned the comptroller-general of customs for adequate explanation.
In a related development, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and the Shippers’ Association Lagos State (SALS) have disagreed over the one-month grace period given by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) concerning payment of duty on vehicles.
Both bodies expressed diverse views in separate interviews with newsmen on Tuesday in Lagos.
The National President of ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu, advised the Customs Service to make the deadline for duty payment on vehicles an open-ended operation, saying the policy would check smuggling.
The President, Shippers Association Lagos State, Jonathan Nicol, described the Customs policy on vehicle duty as outdated and not in conformity with the current situation in world trade.
“Anybody who has a vehicle imported through the border should check with Customs, if correct duties were paid.
“Some people go to Cotonou to buy vehicles and paid duties, while the smugglers take them through unapproved routes.
“Anyone who finds himself in such a position will be embarrassed,” Shittu said.
Speaking with newsmen, Nicol, decried the Customs policy on payment of duty on vehicles.
“Customs should go back to the drawing board if smugglers beat their network,” he said.
He said that there was no vehicle that passed through the border line without paying duty, whether official or non-official.
The Chairman, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Seme Border, Bisiriyu Lasisi-Danu, commended the efforts of Customs in issuing an ultimatum for payment of duties on vehicles to avoid seizures.
The Customs Public Relations Officer, Zone A, Ephraim Haruna, said that one of the Automobile Associations sought the support of Customs tocreate a platform for payment of duties.
Haruna said the association wanted to ensure that smuggled vehicles did not escape duty payment.
“Many car owners who have not paid duty have been calling our zonal office and some had been calling on phone that they want to come and pay duty on their vehicles,” said Haruna.
He said Customs has made all necessary arrangements for the payment.
Haruna said that the service would start arresting vehicle owners who did not pay duties from Monday, March 13.