By DAPO OLAWUNI
Barely one month after clearing agents suspended their strike action against the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) Valuation introduced by the Nigeria Customs Service, and after a 30-days moratorium given by the service for agents to take delivery of trapped vehicles at Lagos RoRo ports, the clearing agents have alleged that customs officers are demanding bribe before issuing valuation.
Investigations by DAILY TREND at the port revealed that the customs service has granted vehicle importers rebates on its VIN Valuation in order to enable them take delivery of their vehicles within the 30-days period.
According to findings, a 50-percent rebate is granted to vehicles of 2007 to 2016, 40-percent rebate on 2018, 30-percent rebate on 2019, 20-percent from 2020 and 10-percent rebate on 2021 cars.
However, despite these rebates as given officially by customs, about ninety percent of payments done on cargoes by the clearing agents are being alerted by customs.
One of the clearing agents, Mr Remilekun Saliu lamented on the platform monitored by DAILY TREND that after the agreement with customs, officers at command level are issuing conflicting values and some are demanding bribe before giving valuation.
“We are having conflicting values being given by customs, and in all of these, they are still collecting money at point of issuing out this values, i believe customs want to sabotage the V-valuation for their selfish gain”
“The 50% or whatever percentage they are using is officially approved, why are we still giving them money? It is better we go on v-valuation, so that I pay my duty and take delivery”
“On Friday customs gave N478 for Sienna 2010 at PTML Terminal, the vessel entered today and they have changed the value to N703 and they still want to collect money, alert is flying everywhere on the same valuation given by customs” he alleged
Corroborating this statement, another frontline customs broker, Mr Adebowale Adebare said it is true that customs officers are demanding bribe at point of issuing valuation.
He however blamed the clearing agents for this, saying that many of the boys on the field are always in a hurry to get their jobs done, hence they fall victim.
Mr Adebare confirmed to DAILY TREND that “They are demanding bribe, but if you can maintain your stand, there is nothing they can do after removing the 50% rebate.
“Some of our boys are complaining that after capturing, customs is placing alerts on their jobs, when I called PRO of PTML, he explained that the instruction is for them to remove 50% rebate on every vehicle that is 2007 to 2016, 40% reduction on 2018, 30% reduction on 2019, 20% from 2020 and 10% rebate on 2021 cars.
“When this rebate is given, the officers need not demand anything from you again, but that is when you maintain your stand.
“Agents are always in a haste, they are ways in a hurry and this is why bribe collection can thrive” he said
The clearing agent told our correspondent that it is the same VIN Valuation chat that clearing agents protested against that the Customs is still using, but that they are only giving rebates.
“The customs claimed that before now, they were only issuing us compromise value, probably to the tune of 80% or 90% rebate, but this time around, the maximum rebate is not going to be more than 50%” he said
After expiry of the 30-days moratorium granted by the Nigeria Customs Service, DAILY TREND learnt from customs sources that the service would now input the 50% rebate and current arrangement into the VIN Valuation.
“This would definitely affect importation because it is favourable to customs but not to importers and end users”
“The evacuation of vehicles is ongoing because nobody wants to lose their cargo or abandon their vehicles. They had rather pay the outrageous duty and thereafter stop importation” the source said
However debunking the allegations of bribe taking by the valuation units of customs, the Public Relations Officer of PTML Customs Command, Mr Yakubu Muhammed said the allegation is spurious and unfounded.
“Why would an officer demand money from you after giving you the actual value you are supposed to pay? Today, there is nothing like compromise value any longer, no officer has right to reduce anything from the rebate you are given.
“Everybody is now being monitored by the customs headquarters, and any officer found wanting would be punished
“The uniformity and harmonisation that we have been looking for a very long time is now in the system, and nobody can tamper with it.
“It is when you have compromised that you offer money to officers, if not, why are you offering him money? Just maintain your grounds and see what would happen, you can do a recording or take pictures to give us an evidence, we are going to work towards it” he said
Yakubu urged clearing agents to stop making empty allegations, rather, they should come forward with evidence, so that customs can apprehend the alleged bribe takers.
“If agents have any allegations, let them forward evidence to us, so that we can address the issues. In whatever we do, must have justification.
“You can not rule out bad eggs, but we need to have evidence to catch someone and deal with him” he said