Stakeholders unimpressed as Customs slashes forex rate again for duty calculations

By Shulammite ‘Foyeku and Samson Echenim 

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through the Nigeria Customs Service has again slashed the exchange rate for duty calculation from N306 to N303 per dollar. This is coming barely two weeks after the CBN slashed the rate from N316 to 306 per dollar.

Speaking on the development, Public Relations Officer, Tin Can Island Port command, Uche Ejesieme however said the Service has not officially communicated the new rate to the command.

He said, “They are yet to communicate to us. As at today (yesterday) we are still using the rate of N306. If that is the true position I believe by tomorrow (today) they will forward it to our system,”

National Publicity Secretary, Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Kayode Farinto said the decrease by the CBN would not in any way improve the low level of importation currently being experienced at the ports.

He advised the federal government to have the exchange rate pegged to a specified amount to enable importers plan ahead before bringing in their goods.

He said, “The decrease does not make any difference in importation. It only shows that the system is inconsistent and that importers cannot have anybody’s confidence to bring in goods.

“What the government should have done is to peg exchange rate for import purposes. This one will not help us. It would have been better if the government say we are pegging the exchange rate say to N250 between now and December so that people who have money would be able to import.

“If we can peg dollar for people who are travelling on Hajj, I think our economy should be important to us.”

Meanwhile, the discrepancy in exchange rates being used by the Nigerian Customs Service to calculate import and export duties in the port is causing confusion at the ports and leaving port users with discriminated rates to pay for their consignments.

The Central Bank of Nigeria pegged the naira-dollar rate at N304 as seen on its website yesterday, but the Customs headquarters confirmed the rate of exchange for Customs duties was N303 per dollar.

SHIPS & PORTS DAILY received complaints from several clearing agents yesterday. The complaints came as the Nigeria Customs Service headquarters yesterday confirmed that exchange rates for imported goods are now calculated at N303 per dollar, even though the Apapa Port and Tin Can Island commands of the service maintained existing rate of N306.

Customs spokesman, Wale Adeniyi confirmed the exchange rate at N303, but a Customs command spokesman at the Tin Can Port, Uche Ejesieme said the command was still using existing rate of N306 per dollar to calculate duties, maintaining that his unit was yet to receive an instruction to reduce the rate.

He however stated that as soon as the command receives direction from the management to down the rate, it will do as directed. He pointed out that the NCS always used the rate approved by the CBN to calculate duties.

“Rate from the CBN is what we use. As we speak now rate that is uploaded from the CBN is N306, but it is not sacrosanct; it can change tomorrow because it is dependent on the prevailing situation. I  spoke with the processing department and they said they are using N306, so, I am actually not aware of the N303 rate but I speak not on behalf of the Customs but for Tin Can. I know of N306 for now, except otherwise stated by a superior authority,” Ejesieme said.

Customs agents reacted to the discrepancy, saying it gives room for charge manipulation.

“This thing is not new; Customs rate in some time differ from locations…yes, it does,” said an agent who pleaded anonymity.

“What happens is that they try to take advantage of the timing involved in the rate change. In some customs location, they do not affect a new exchange rate immediately,” the source added.

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