Customs bows to pressure, agrees to review VIN Valuation policy


… Says freight forwarders shy away from training, sensitization programmes

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on Tuesday assured that it would take steps to review the new Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) Valuation policy which it introduced recently as a vehicle clearance platform and come up with a more acceptable template so as to engender a safe and friendly business environment.

The Zonal Coordinator, Zone A of the Nigeria Customs Service, ACG Modupe Aremu who gave the assurance at the stakeholders town hall meeting on VIN Valuation system held at the Customs Training College, Ikeja, Lagos yesterday, however, insisted that the platform would not be suspended as it has come to stay.

ACG Aremu promised that the Service would communicate its position to the agents before Friday this as according to her, the service would be meeting on today to aggregate the complaints and come up with a more acceptable system.

According to her, “We have decided to take their grievances and complaints back to management for a peaceful resolution. We are going to modify the system and it would take care of all their issues.

“We are meeting on this matter tomorrow (today) and I’m sure we will come up with a solution that will be a win-win for customs and freight agents. The agents were actually trained ahead of the implementation of the VIN valuation. That was why we were not expecting this kind of response from them when we began the VIN implementation.

“They (freight forwarders) were actually trained on three sections, we didn’t expect this kind of response from them on introduction of the VIN system. However, we would still go back to our drawing board and modify some of the issues they have raised.

“The VIN has come to stay, we are not suspending it, we would just modify.”

The ACG, however, chided the freight forwarders whom she accused of shying away from sensitization and training programmes put in place by the Service to educate them on new and evolving policies like the VIN Valuation system adding that the Chief Executives would prefer to send their staff to such trainings and sensitization programmes only to stay back in their offices.

She expressed shock that freight forwarders were protesting against the VIN Valuation at this point, even though several sensitization and training had been carried out to educate them on workability of the new system.

“When trainings are called, the CEO’s of the licenses don’t show up, they would ways send their boys from the office who do not understand or ask questions. When we have these trainings, they leave it to the boys in the office that cannot ask questions.

“We are now going to do it zone by zone in order to sensitize and educate them properly on this VIN Valuation method and other introductions going forward from now”, she added.

Also speaking, the Assistant Comptroller General of Customs ICT/Modernization, ACG Saidu Galadima said Customs have trained freight forwarders on the VIN Valuation even as he regretted that 95% of them never attended.

He gave the assurance that Service would revisit the system based on all information provided by the agents.

He, however, warned that for the system to work effectively, freight forwarders must enhance their level of integrity, alleging that freight forwarders were in the habit of manipulating the system.

“Some persons were found to change VIN figures of their imported used vehicles so as to be processed as non standard VIN to evade complete duty payments,” he said.

ACG Galadima assured that efforts will be made to bring training closer to customs agents noting that the centralized trainings organized by Customs headquarters in Abuja has limited the participation and impact of the trainings at the command levels.

To address this challenge, he said further trainings will be decentralized to area commands to be organised by Customs Area Controllers.

Reacting, a chieftain of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Taiye Oyeniyi advised NCS management to suspend the implementation of VIN valuation until an ideal process is structured to capture duties for used vehicles.

According to Oyeniyi, the protests on VIN valuation was as a result of the high figures in the new e-system which saw customs duties of some vehicles become higher than the cost price and freight of the vehicles.

Noting that there is a disconnect between the leadership of freight forwarding associations and the NCS management, Oyeniyi advised NCS to reconsider its reintroducing Customs Consultative Forum as a way to bridge communication gap between the Service and the freight forwarders.

He, however, urged the striking freight forwarders to allow the customs management team present at the Lagos meeting to take their complaints to Abuja for consideration at the Customs managerial meeting today.

On his part, a former National President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Eugene Nweke accused Customs of implementing the new system without any notice for stakeholders to prepare for it.

Contributing, Mr. Abayomi Duyile queried the Service on the template it used to arrive at the data it inputed into the VIN Valuation system to determine value of vehicles.

According to him, “We have found out that the Customs itself has contravened its laws by not putting into consideration the legal notice 30 that gave us up to 50% rebate on used vehicles. How can say you are using artificial intelligence to determine prices of vehicles coming from Canada, United States, Europe and Asia?

“A Venza 2013 that has market price of N7 million, by the time we checked the customs VIN Valuation system, it was giving us $21,880USD. The CIF was N8.9 Nigerian price. We have found a lot of flaws in the system and we are rejecting it in its totality.”

The Customs leadership team which presided over the meeting included three Assistant Comptroller-Generals; ACG Tarrif and Trade, Hamza Gumi, ACG ICT and Modernization, Saidu Galadima and ACG Zone A Headquarters, Modupe Aremu.

It will be recalled that following the introduction of the VIN Valuation system by the management of the Nigeria Customs Service, the freight forwarders embarked on protest at the PTML and Tincan Island port over a week now which has so far crippled economic and commercial activities at the port.

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