By Sandra Chukwunyere
The Management of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has pledged to resolve teething problems of the controversial Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) valuation system which has disrupted port activities due to the strike action and protests staged by clearing agents at Tin Can Island Port and PTML respectively laat week.
The Customs Leadership made this pledge during a town hall stakeholders meeting at the Customs Training College, Ikeja, Lagos on Monday. The meeting with freight forwarders and stakeholders was presided over by three Assistant Comptroller-Generals; ACG Tariff and Trade, Hamza Gumi, ACG ICT and Modernization, Saidu Galadima and ACG Zone A Headquarters, Modupe Aremu.
While addressing Journalists after the meeting, the Controller General of Customs who was represented by ACG Aremu, explained that the Customs is going to modify the complaints of the freight agents to arrive at a conclusive arrangement for the VIN. He assured that the customs management will meet Wednesday to review the complaints by licensed customs agents and freight forwarders over newly introduced Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) valuation which has resulted in a strike action across ports in Lagos.
According to her, “We are going to modify their complaints going forward. The modification will take care of the complaints of the clearing agents as regards VIN. 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.
“We are meeting on this matter tomorrow 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,” ACG Aremu said.
She, however, appealed to freight agents to make efforts to attend future stakeholders engagements ahead of new policy introduction, opining that several meetings were held on the VIN valuation previously but freight agents sent their workers who couldn’t make worthwhile deliberations on the issue
Also speaking at the event, Aliyu Galadima Saidu, Assistant Comptroller General in Charge of ICT and Modernisation disclosed that efforts will be made to bring training closer to customs agents.
ACG Galadima Saidu assured that efforts will be made to bring training closer to customs agents, noting that the centralized trainings organized by Customs headquarters recently has limited the participation and impact of the trainings. He said the training will be decentralized to area commands to be organised by Customs Area Controllers .
Saidu added that that trade in an ICT driven era requires sincerity and integrity as according to him, 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.
On his part, a chieftain of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Chief Taiye Oyeniyi decried the high cost of vehicle clearance using VIN Valuation urging management of the service to suspend the implementation of VIN valuation until an ideal process is structured to capture duties for used vehicles.
Chief Oyeniyi advised NCS to reconsider it’s defunct Customs Consultative Forum as a way to bridge communication gap between the NCS and agents. He also urged the striking agents to allow members of customs management team present at the Lagos meeting to take their complaints to Abuja for consideration.
According to Oyeniyi, the protests on VIN valuation was a result of the high figures in the new e-system which saw Customs duties of some vehicles become higher that the cost price and freight of the vehicles.
The ANLCA stalwart called on the striking agents to allow members of customs management team present at the Lagos meeting to take their complaints to Abuja for consideration at the Customs managerial meeting tomorrow.
To address this challenge, he said further trainings will be decentralized to area commands to be organised by Customs Area Controllers. “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.
Also speaking, a former President of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Chief Eugene Nweke accused Customs of implementing the new system without any notice for stakeholders to prepare for it.
The regime addresses the duty variation and alleged non uniformity said to have existed before now. It also uses artificial intelligence relying on supplied data by the trader and other third parties to evaluate and decide on duty payments without human interference
On his part, President General , Berger Motors Dealers Association , Chief Metchie Nnadigwe promised to support freight agents in order to addressing issues of VIN valuation policy.