By DAPO OLAWUNI
Once again, importers and licensed customs agents are raising a complaint against the officer in charge of Customs Pre Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) ruling centre in Abuja, saying that customs in its bid to generate revenue by all means, is now demanding SONCAP (Standards Organization of Nigeria Comformity Assessment Programme) on used electronics, particularly tokunbo (second-hand) photocopying machines.
Basically the SONCAP was introduced by the Federal government to address the influx of unsafe newly manufactured products entering into Nigeria, right from the importing country.
The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) another federal government agency most times check the influx of second hand items like used electronics, to ensure they are not dumped in Nigeria as e-waste.
Recall that in September this year, the Vice President of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Dr Kayode Farinto raised an alarm about the PAAR ruling centre, which had directed that henceforth 1×20 footer container be jacked up to N1 million while 1×40 footer container be jacked up to N2 million as basics.
He said this effort is in desperation on the part of the Customs management to meet up with their self-imposed target irrespective of whatever importers are carrying and this negates various principles of trade.
Speaking with DAILY TREND NEWS in the same vein on Wednesday this week, a frontline licensed customs agent who pleaded anonymity raised a fresh alarm, saying that the Controller of the customs PAAR ruling centre has now introduced SONCAP on used items such as photocopying machines.
According to the customs agent, SON as an agency does not issue SONCAP on used items, and the document required to clear this item is normally the NESREA document.
“PAAR ruling centre in Abuja is where PAAR documents are prepared, the new Controller of that department is now saying that all used items must be accompanied with SONCAP certificates.
“Meanwhile, before now, what normally goes with used items like that is NESREA paper, but now, Customs is demanding for SONCAP
“How can we generate the SONCAP? because SON cannot issue SONCAP certificate for a used item, if you are now asking importers and agents to produce SONCAP, it means you are asking us to falsify documents, this is what we are trying to guide against.
Why should a controller be asking for such thing”
“The document is different, but because you want to generate revenue, you are now asking an importer that brings a used item and input it as new, if they now get the SONCAP by all means, it means that you are forcing them to falsify documents
“We all know the situation of the country today, importers are just managing to bring in these goods, there is no much profit on the cargoes like before. Now, if we are importing a used photocopying machine or a used printing machine and you are asking us to change the document to new item, automatically when you want to give them an assessment, the cargo would be assessed as a new one
“How can the importer sell it? How would a used copier machine compete with new one in the market? Somebody imported used copier machine and you are asking him to clear it as new one, automatically you have run that person out of business.
“What customs are only after revenue, if the item is new and you describe it as old, this is where there would be problems, but if it is an old item and you classify as new, they would just collect the revenue and look the other way” he lamented
Another freight forwarder, Comrade Chinedu Edward also confirmed to our correspondent that under the customs classification, it is the same HS Code that is used for imported new products and used items. He said it is only the value of the cargo and duty payable that would be different.
According to him, a used photocopying machine in the market cannot be more than N70,000 while the new one is about N350,000 to N400,000.
“If an importer now brings used copier to sell and you are giving him value of a new one, he cannot clear the container” he confirmed
However when he was contacted, National Public Relations Officer of customs, Comptroller Joseph Attah said that the Nigeria Customs tariff does not recognise anything “used” item, and that the tariff is a fixed heading for all items.
“Anything electronics, either it is used or a new one, the importer must get a SONCAP, we cannot turn our country into a dumping ground for e-waste”
“The SON is there to regulate and ensure standard of cargoes coming into the country, without standard control, it means that manners of imports would come into the country and become e-waste”
“If the new Controller of PAAR is requesting for SONCAP, he is not working in SON office, SONCAP is just a document of the Standards Organization of Nigeria, so for him to put it as a requirement, it means that SON has put it in the system as a requirement”
“It is because SON is requesting for SONCAP on the item and that is why PAAR ruling centre has placed it as a requirement” he said
Compt Attah urged the importers and their clearing agents to direct their requirements to SON who have made SONCAP a requirement on used items and customs is only implementing.