Waiver of import duty on the controversial bullet proof BMW cars allegedly purchased by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the personal use of Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, has resulted in port operators weighing the relevance of import duty waiver on the economy.
Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Dikko Abdullahi, last week alleged that the Ministry of Finance granted waiver worth N10.1 million on the two contentious BMW cars imported by Coscharis Nigeria Limited for the Lagos State 18th National Sports Festival hosted in 2012.
The allegation that the scandalous bullet-proof cars were among the vehicles imported duty-free on the approval of the federal government does not sit well with operators in the maritime industry.
Some of them have expressed angst over what they termed as the abuse of import duty waiver and have called for its obliteration.
Factional Secretary of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Ben Ndee, said that said that import duty waiver in Nigeria only serves as a tool to enrich politicians and should therefore be scrapped.
He said: “The ODUAHGATE is indeed a most welcome development that will promote Nigeria to a more respectable position in the next global corruption index. Years back under NPN – the father of PDP, it was import license and the military dictatorship sustained it to placate the ever greedy politicians and civil servants. The import duty waiver, given from 1999 to date, is nothing but monumental fraud. Apart from military hardwares, hospital equipment, educational materials and projects that will create jobs for the teeming unemployed restive youths, no other import under whatever guise deserves duty waiver.”
Ndee further said that “customs duty waiver speaks volume of profligacy in our nation” even as he noted that the Nigeria Customs Service is “well positioned to check this fraud to enhance its revenue target.”
Chairman, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Ikorodu Chapter, Chief Tomi Aloba, said that since duty free imports are sold in the Nigerian market at the same expensive prices as those with payable duty, the concept of import duty waiver is lost and therefore needless.
“A manufacturer importing raw material that was given duty waiver sells his products at the same price as the same commodity imported without waiver, both the waivered and the unwaivered are sold at the same price at the market so what is the need? There is no need for it,” he said.
Another clearing agent and a chieftain of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Ugochukwu Nnadi, also said that the import duty waiver has been abused and should be scrapped by government.
A member of the Ports Consultative Council (PCC), Ajanowu Vincent, however, said that there are certain categories of imports that waiver should be granted on.
He said: “There are reasons for it because before government comes to a decision it must have understudied the whole thing and come to the conclusion that there is need for it. In certain exceptional cases waivers should be granted but when it is discovered that people are abusing it then it should be scrapped but I think the President and Minister of Finance should exercise that discretionary powers to grant waivers where it is inevitably necessary”.
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