… Says VIN should be jettisoned
In the wake of the Tincan Island Port command of the Nigeria Customs Services (NCS) declaration of 27.50 per cent increase in revenue collection in its 2022 half year report, maritime stakeholders have accused the agency of defrauding importers and freight forwarders to hit this figure. They also called for the discard of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) as soon as the automation of its operations is completed, saying that VIN is an intellectual fraud platform.
Stakeholders in the maritime industry have once again alleged that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is fraudulent in its collection of duties from importers and freight forwarders.
The aggrieved stakeholders made this allegation in a swift reaction to the Tincan Island Port Customs command’s half year report of N274,320,715,179.22 revenue translating to 27.50 per cent increase from last year’s collection of N229,321,865,091.16 within the period under review.
Customs Area Controller, Tincan Island Port Customs command, Adekunle Oloyede, while delivering the report stated that the VIN-valuation has helped the command to achieve an expedited clearance process due to predictability of value-assessment, increase in revenue generation, improved ease of doing business, generation of accurate statistics for the federal government and a host of others.
He explained that VIN-Valuation was deployed in March 2022 by the service which uses information obtained through artificial intelligence to assign values to an imported vehicle based on its unique identification number otherwise known as the chassis number.
However, reacting to the report, former Chairman of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Segun Musa said that increment or reduction in revenue collected by NCS was not an achievement alleging that 50 per cent of that revenue was fraudulently collected from importers through coercive measures.
According to him, what amounts to an achievement is the increase in their operational system; how they were able to enhance trade facilitation and ease of doing business at all border corridors.
His words: “Increase or reduction in revenue generation is not an achievement for NCS but what we look at is an increase in the operational system which includes how they were able to enhance trade facilitation and ease of doing business at all border corridors and also how they have been able to discipline their officers as a way of deterring them from corrupt practices.
“Also, part of it is how they’ve been able to help stakeholders in promoting government policies and encouragement to trading activity in the country as well as how much is being put in place to enhance utilization of customs processes. As they are trying to jettison manual operations these are part of achievements not revenue collection; it’s no achievement.
“Over 50 per cent of this money was collected fraudulently through coercive measures and the importers were left with no option than to pay those fraudulent additional fees or to abandon the shipment.”
Musa stressed that “it has always been a case of either you settle the customs officers or pay more than your genuine duty declaration.”
On the claim by Oloyede that VIN has helped the command in achieving expedited clearance process, the freight forwarder cum importer said “VIN is more of an intellectual fraud platform; a situation where you don’t consider the year of manufacturing, the condition of the vehicle and the origin of the vehicle. Hence, such a platform cannot be regarded as genuine to serve the interest of the country. So, VIN should be jettisoned immediately the NCS automation is completed.”
Also corroborating, a vehicle importer in Lagos metropolis who would not want his name in print said NCS’ dealings with importers had never been transparent and honest.
According to him, “I’ll just keep it short; NCS officers would always want to enrich their private pockets and if you don’t cooperate, you indirectly pay for it. Coming to announce to the public that you made an increase in your revenue generation is not a big deal because it is expected.
“But how have you truly worked to improve ease of doing business? It’s not a lip service, I mean in reality. I equally join the call for the discard of VIN; it has not helped my business neither that of my colleagues because a lot of things were overlooked.
Responding, the Customs Public Relations Officer, Tincan Island Port command, Mr. Uche Ejesieme stated that whoever gave this information to this reporter is either being biased, mischievous or completely ignorant of the leadership style of Comptroller Kunle Oloyede.
While pointing out that revenue collection was number three on the command’s order of priority, Ejesieme added that the major focus of the Customs Area Controller of the command was trade facilitation which according to him, ultimately led to higher turnover insisting that the command had removed all known bottlenecks to free flow of trade as this could be empirically verified particularly through compliant traders.
On revenue, he said, “If you look at our revenue chat, you will see that revenue from vehicles as being callously opined by the agent is less than 1% of the total revenue. Go and verify! Our major source is bulk cargo from multinational organizations and corporate companies who are mostly compliant traders.
“And so, attributing our revenue to extortion is a flagrant display of ignorance geared towards decimating the enviable records of the Customs Area Controller who has clearly demonstrated capacity and panache in administration.
“The source ought to have applauded the giant strides of the CAC as against attributing to VIN Valuation which contribution is quite infinitesimal. For your information, no importer has been defrauded in any way as being insinuated and if there is any proof of such, I challenge the person making such claims to come up with the specific issue and I can assure you that necessary steps will be initiated to ensure refunds because refunds and drawbacks are part of our extant laws.”
Photo: Comptroller Adekunle Oloyede, Customs Area Controller, Tincan Island Port Command.
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