BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
Management of the Nigeria Customs Service met with freight forwarders, clearing agents and other port industry stakeholders on the workings and imperative of the newly introduced VIN Valuation for documentation and clearance of imported vehicles.
Although Customs assured the stakeholders that they have a legitimate right to protest what they feel is wrong in government policies, they maintained that the e-valuation database which was the basis for agents week long protest took into account all the dynamics involved in valuation of importations, and insisted that the new policy has come to stay and will maintain uniform valuation which is the acceptable trend in international trade.
The Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali, retired, however said management will look into suggestions made by stakeholders’ on how best to VIN Valuation policy can best serve both the government, stakeholders and the citizenry.
The CGC who was represented by the Zonal Coordinator of NCS Zone A, ACG Modupe Aremu in her opening remark said customs and licensed agents as members of one large family, noting that no matter the nature of a misunderstanding, a family would always find an amicable solution.
Addressing the media after the meeting, Aremu said one of the possible ways to seek an amicable solution to the standoff is modify the stakeholders’ complaints in such a way that the VIN Valuation will address some of their concerns.
She said, “We are going to modify their complaints going forward. The modification will take care of the complaints of the clearing agents as regards VIN.”
She said the agents were economical with the truth in saying they were not carried along in the formulation of the new policy, but said that their protests will be given all due consideration and that management has a duty to return to the drawing board.
“We also talked and rubbed minds on a solution to this ongoing strike at the ports. 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 implementation.
“Due to the complaints the agents gave today, we are going back to the drawing board to modify all the issues that they raised. Hopefully, very soon we will get back to them on the outcome of the modification. VIN has come to stay, it cannot be suspended.”
Speaking during the engagement, the ACG Trade and Tariff, ACG Hamza Gumi said the new policy is about trade modernization and trade facilitation which will not be allowed to run on sentiments but clear economic dynamics consistent with international trade norms.
He said, “we have listened to your complaints, we are trying to resolve those we can resolve here, other critical areas we cannot take a position on here we will take back to the headquarters for consideration.
“But we all know that import valuation of vehicles is not a question of convenience or sentiments. It’s part of the international trade, what is happening is that NCS has embraced the modernization of customs trade tools.
“Through this modernization the era of negotiated value is gone, we can no longer negotiate, this is a policy decision and it’s not up to you. This policy is based on universal valuation, not transaction valuation.”
The ACG ICT and Mobilization, ACG Danladi Saidu who was part of the team from the customs headquarters said the e-valuation policy is something that should be embraced by all and sundry, and said customs management is not angry that agents expressed concerns about the policy. He said it would have however been best if a position was sent to management rather than engage in open protes, since according to him, customs and agents are like as a family.
The Customs position followed stakeholders suggestions that the policy be put in abeyance and the system revert to transaction valuation until according to them, the new policy adapt its own laws in relation to used and ‘accidented vehicles’; which stakeholders claim should be incorporated into the VIN Valuation database.
The Customs said while it is conscious of the prevailing economic hardship, government has an obligation to do the needful, hence it allowed for low tax regime in importation in keeping with world customs organization, WCO, and world trade agreement, WTA, protocols was taking into consideration in the formulation of the new policy.
While the stakeholders faulted Customs for purportedly failing to take into account primary recommendation of international bodies like WAT and WCO, such as value log book, they urged management to tailor the e-valuation in relation to ‘market reality’, and to also factor in certain agreements previously reached between Customs and stakeholders in making the e-valuation a workable policy document.
Stakeholders in attendance include representatives of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Council of the Managing Directors of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, CMDNLCA, and the Association of Motor Dealers of Nigeria, AMDON; including terminal operators.
The stakeholders meeting is coming on the heels of a weeklong protest by freight forwarders and clearing agents against the introduction of VIN Valuation the week before.
Secretary, Board of Trustees of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Chief Taiye Oyeniyi appealed for calm and amicable resolution of the impasses, even as decried the high cost of vehicle clearance using VIN Valuation, as the basis for the agents unrest.
He urged the customs management revive the defunct Customs Consultative Forum as a way to bridge communication gap between the NCS and licensed agents.
In spite of the peaceful manner and spirit of chivalry demonstrated by both customs and stakeholders, the meeting was inconclusive, but the general mood suggests that the agents and other stakeholders were done with the protest and are simply awaiting the outcome of customs decisions in respect of their submissions.
Also present at the meeting are the customs area controllers of Apapa, Comptroller Malanta Yusuf, Tin Can lsland, Comptroller Oloyede Kunle, and Port and Terminal Multiservice Ltd, Compt. Festus Okun.