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Stakeholders React As Customs Clarifies ‘VIN Valuation Suspension’

BY FUNMI ALUKO

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Monday debunked a media report purportedly suspending the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) Valuation process regime adopted recently, citing alleged distortion of the subject matter in the service’s internal memo from which the said report was lifted.

Quoting from a circular NCS/T&T/2023/014 signed by the Assistant Comptroller General, Tariff and Trade, C.K Niagwan, dated 24th of August 2023, the report not Pinnacle Time, states:

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“It has been observed with great concern that examination and valuation Officers are not complying with the procedure for examination, valuation and release of used vehicles.

“For the avoidance of doubt, all used vehicles after examination are to be referred to the Valuation seat to verify the trim of the imported vehicle and assign the appropriate value, instead of applying the base value.

“Pursuant to the above, you are requested to re-orient all examination and valuation Officers of this procedure to prevent further loss of revenue.”

However, in a disclaimer signed by the Customs National Public Relations Officer, Abdullahi Maiwada, the NCS said the VIN Valuation regime is operational and effective, as it clarifies the issue of ‘trim’ a component of the process which the said circular aimed to address.

The statement titled ‘Nigeria Customs Service Clarifies Misleading Report on Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) Valuation Process’ reads:

“The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) would like to address a recent media report that has caused confusion regarding the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) Valuation process. The information is misleading, aiming to distort the truth and misinform the public.

“While it is true that a circular about “examination and release of used vehicles” has been highlighted by the author, it is regrettable that the accurate context has been overlooked.

“The VIN Valuation Process remains fully operational and effective. The mentioned circular specifically pertains to imported used vehicles equipped with trim numbers. These trim numbers are critical in identifying distinct versions or tiers within a specific car model. They delineate varying configurations, features, and levels of equipment associated with the model. Furthermore, different trim levels offer diverse technological advancements, interior and exterior features, and, occasionally, distinct engine options.

“For instance, a car model could feature trim levels such as “Base,” “Sport,” “Luxury,” and “Premium.” Each of these trim levels might present differing combinations of attributes, such as premium leather seats, advanced infotainment systems, upgraded wheels, and enhanced safety features, among other enhancements. This results in an elevated value for the vehicle compared to the base model.”

Making further clarifications, the statement continues: “To ensure fairness and accuracy, the NCS mandates that imported used vehicles with trim numbers undergo valuation at the Valuation Seat after a thorough examination. This process aims to establish the vehicle’s appropriate and precise Customs value.

“The NCS urges the general public to dismiss the misleading report and encourages individuals to engage with the various Customs Formations across the nation for any additional clarification or information they may require.”

Meanwhile, stakeholders have said they will continue to support the effort of the NCS to fine tune any identified drawbacks the policy may contain aimed at perfecting it for the benefit of government and the trading community.

Commenting, a front line clearing agent, Chief John Ofobike said it is not to be assumed that the VIN Valuation document cannot be adjusted or overhauled, noting that like all other documents, chances are that it could be subjected to renewal to reflect current realities.

“There are two documents cum   “books'” that you can’t amend that is the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran. But every other documents or ideas is human and prone to errors or gaps, and can be amended from time to time including the so-called VIN valuations being put in place by the customs .  Whatever the customs management do we don’t have an option than to learn and follow immediately so we are not be left behind because we are partners, cum professionals.

“Every ideas and new innovation that can bring best practice in customs trade and the maritime industry generally is always welcome, in as much as the practitioners are trained and carry along because you cannot clap with one hand alone.”

Corroborating, intellectual power house in customs brokerage, Chidi Anthony Opara said “The Nigeria Customs Service ought to be concerned if there is loss of revenue. Even before that occurs, the service should put viable mechanisms in place to prevent and if it occurs, revert such occurrence.

“These viable mechanisms should not include the throwing away of standardized procedures like VIN, except if there would be replacement with enhanced standardized procedures.  The referenced directive which nuances a revert to the old system of obtaining values from the valuation department if true has implications.”

Also commenting, maritime resource person and scholar, Mr. Charles okorefe wonder why the reported reversal and urged management to engage in proper in-house cleansing to make for the success of policy regimes such as the VIN Valuation.

“You’ll recall that a lot of protests trailed the introduction of the VIN Valuation, January this year. Adjustments were made and the process has been running ‘smoothly’ or so it seemed. If this reported suspension is true, the question to ask is, have the Customs compromised in cahoots with clearing agents to undermine the system? I think the Customs need to do a lot of soul searching and in-house cleaning to get it right.”

 

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