Fresh indications have emerged that not all the vehicles recently impounded by the Nigeria Customs Service at car marts around the country arrived through unapproved routes, investigations revealed that many cars were cleared with conspiracy of Customs officers at Tin Can Customs and PTML Command.
This is even as the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has urged its members to take advantage of the 60-days grace period offered by the Comptroller General of Customs to pay 25% penalty and take back their affected vehicles.
Reliable sources confirmed to our correspondent at Tin Can Port yesterday that majority of the vehicles coming out of the ports are short changing the Customs of revenue under the guise of being accidented.
“The Customs has a policy that says that any vehicle that is dented or accidented, either by way of a broken side mirror or a removed bumper, such vehicle would enjoy a duty rebate”
“But officers are now hiding under this provision to release complete vehicle that is supposed to pay full duty”
“The annoying thing about this policy is that, it is done with the officers discretion, the Customs officer can decide to clear your vehicle if he believes that it merits to enjoy the ‘accidented’ provision” a source said
Another senior executive of ANLCA in a chat with our correspondent alleged that, at Tin Can Command for example, the federal government was losing huge amount of revenue due to the “Benchmark” of cargoes being implemented by the area controller, Compt Musa Baba Abdullahi.
He alleged that cargoes that ought to pay huge amount of revenue are hiding under the Benchmark to pay less duty.
“For you as a Nigerian driving your vehicle, you would not know if the agent cut corners in bring them out, just take your documents and go to tin can or PTML, they will tell you the status of your vehicle”
“It is not a surprise to us that vehicles are being impounded by Customs, some clean vehicles are now passing for accidented and being cleared from the port now, this is another means of vehicle smuggling” he said
The Comptroller General of Customs, Mr Hameed Ali has however grated a relief to owners of impounded vehicles and even those who suspects that due diligence was not carried out on their duty payments.
This is contained in a Circular No HQ/005, 2019 titled ” Detention and Seizure of Vehicles” sighted in Lagos.
The circular was signed by AOB Fatade, an Assistant Comptroller General of Customs on behalf of the CG and copied to all DCGs, ACGs, Area Comptrollers and Unit heads.
“The Comptroller General of Customs has directed that henceforth, all vehicles detained or subject to detention should be allowed to pay the correct and complete customs duty with 25% penalty levy.”
The statement however gave an exception to already condemned vehicles by a court of competent jurisdiction not to enjoy the privilege.
” Furthermore, you are directed to note that all vehicles seized and taken into customs custody (Condemned by competent court of jurisdiction in accordance with the provision of section 167 of CEMA, paragraph 1, consequently it shall attract the penalty prescribed in Section 167 referred thereto.” it stated.
The circular also mandated officers involved to treat the matter as urgent and to tender reports of such dealings to the Customs Headquarters on a weekly basis.
” You are to report action to Headquarters on weekly basis.
Treat as most urgent and ensure strict compliance please.”
Meanwhile, ANLCA in a release signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Joe Sanni informed its members that the grace period offered by the Customs lasts for only sixty days.
The association said the grace period is extended to those who are still in possession of vehicles without valid Customs documents, to approach any Customs Command for the vehicles to assessed, for the payment of duties, to regularize its documentations.
“After the grace period, any vehicles still in detention might be condemned/auctioned to recover revenue”
“Affected members/persons are urged to seize this opportunity, to avoid embarrassing situations, please” the statement reads.