Outrage over Customs’ threat to impound used vehicles without duty
• Nigerians Groan, Say Policy Will Impose More Hardship
The recent threat by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), to impound vehicles without duty across the country has elicited harsh reactions from Nigerians, who described it as a move to further impose untold hardship on them.
According to vehicles dealers and private car owners that spoke with The Guardian yesterday, the new directive is only targeted at raising revenue for government, to the detriment of the citizenry.
The Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd.) has approved a grace period of one month, which commences March 13 to April 20 2017, for owners of all vehicles within the country, whose customs duty has not been paid, to do so.
By implication, vehicle dealers and private owners of vehicles without duty will have to forfeit them to the Customs. But stakeholders say this will further impose untold hardship on the populace, who were hitherto finding it tough coping with the economic recession.
Okechukwu Ogbonna, an importer of used vehicles, who is the Managing Director of Artix Auto Links Services, said the plan “is absolutely ridiculous and rubbish. We have Customs officers at the borders and they allowed the vehicles into the country in the first place. How will the same agency turn around to impound vehicles not covered by appropriate duty? It is ridiculous,” he said.
He said the Customs boss is very confused and lacks the competence to manage the agency.
“This action may result in loss of lives and time, as Customs officers are known for their cruelty and wickedness, when you argue or refuse to give them money,” Ogbonna said.
Meanwhile, the Director General of the National Automotive Design and Development Council, Aminu Jalal, has a different opinion, saying the move will ensure that all car importers pay necessary duty and save government losses resulting from smuggling.
Jalal was also optimistic that the decision would strengthen government policy in the sector by introducing sanity to the market, as well as create the market for local assemblers.
Increase Uche, Deputy National President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), also saw it as a welcome development that will give Nigerians the opportunity to regularise their papers with the Customs.
He enjoined affected persons to seize the opportunity of the one-month grace period to pay their customs duty.
Uche said boycotting customs duty is a sabotage to the nation, hence the need for compliance, “so that we can jointly uplift the country.”
A statement by the Acting Public Relations Officer, Joseph Attah, explained that “for the avoidance of doubt, all private car owners, who are not sure of the authenticity of their vehicles Customs documents, can also approach the Zonal Offices to verify with a view to complying with the provision of the law”.
Consequently, all motor dealers and private owners of such vehicles are advised to visit the nearest Customs Zonal Office to pay the appropriate Customs Duty on them.
The Four Zonal Offices of the Nigeria Customs Service are: Zone A Headquarters, No. 1 Harvey Road, Yaba, Lagos; Zone B Headquarters, Kabala Doki, Kaduna; Zone C Headquarters, Nigeria Ports Authority, Port Harcourt and Zone D Headquarters, Yelwa Tudu Road, Bauchi State.