A peep at taxes killing customs brokers
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
From the ports of Lagos to Port Harcourt ports, Calabar, Warri and Kano, the story is the same, the story of multiple, convoluted taxes imposed on customs brokers and freight forwarders by various agencies of the federal government.
From findings, customs brokers pays to obtain Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) License, pays NCS License Annual Renewal Fee, and pays NCS Area Command Registration Fee. These service providers also pay the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Operation Fee, Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) Operating License Fee, CRFFN Registration Renewal Fee, CRFFN Practitioners Operating Fee, etc.
This group of professional practitioners must be the most taxed in the Nigerian economic, social and occupational system. As providers of essential services, it can best be imagine that faced with above plethora of taxations, their occupation is not only believed to be under inexplicable official siege, the practitioners themselves are said to be dying from excessive government taxes, on a yearly basis.
It has become so chronic with the further establishments of federal agencies like the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), such that one wonders why the undue attention on customs brokerage and freight forwarding. Are other lines of businesses or professionals in the port industry taxed as much in the country?
Very often we hear of allegations of elongated corrupt practices leveled against customs brokers and freight forwarders by agencies of the federal government. These sharp practices come in different shapes and hues, including cargo concealment, cargo under declaration, undervaluation, wrong classification and duty underpayment.
They also come under strange nomenclature such as falsified import documentation and declaration, wrong HS Code, fake entries otherwise known as “machine outside”, containerized cargo theft known in local parlance as “container flying”, wrong declaration etc.
Why would practitioners not resort to sharp practices under an apparent insensitive system that elects to remain deaf, dumb and blind to operators cry and lamentations?
Aside the siege of unfair tax regime, customs brokers and freight forwarders are in addition subjected to a string of shipping and port terminal operational charges regarded as the most obnoxious and barefaced extortion in global shipping.
Plus the regime of elongated demurrages and port traffic congestion associated forced bribes, customs brokers and freight forwarders in Nigeria are perhaps the most exploited in global shipping services.
Like a cancer, the unbridled regime of unspeakable taxation in the port and freight forwarding industry has become a lifestyle that has gradually also crept into other aspects of the industry. Take for instance the high cost of election into the Governing Council Board of CRFFN.
The cost of the election form is N500, 000. This is not only financially questionable and inappropriate, but morally reprehensible. It is even more shocking that the financial template was drawn up by the federal ministry of transportation; sadly under an avowed regime of correction, transparency and accountability.
One does not have to be an expert in financial programming and analysis to know that above prevailing financial regimes are suffocating, rapacious and therefore unjustified. National budget planning does not envisage holding the economy and its operators by the jugular, but rather, through a policy of conscientious and supportive system hinged on patriotic fidelity that is able to sustain the commonwealth.
It is high time the federal ministries of trade and commerce, finance and transportation, takes more than passing interest in the plight of these essential service providers, and look for a means of bridging the heavy toll and associated industry rip off.