• Grants 60% rebate on vehicles imported before 2016
Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
Despite the Senate resolution directing the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to stay action on its month-long grace to owners of all vehicles in the country whose customs duty had not been paid to do so, the NCS is insisting on forging ahead with its ultimatum.
The Comptroller-General of the Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd.), last week approved a grace period of one month for owners of all vehicles in the country whose customs duty had not been paid to do so.
The grace period is between Monday, March 13 and Wednesday, April 12, 2017, the NCS said.
However, the Senate on Monday asked the NCS to suspend the ultimatum. But rather than heed the resolution of the upper legislative chamber, the NCS on Wednesday approved an adjustment of payment points while granting a 60 per cent rebate across board on vehicles imported from 2015 downwards.
Customs’ acting Public Relations Officer, Mr. Joseph Attah, who spoke at a media briefing in Abuja, said the one month grace period to vehicle owners remained in place, adding that the rebate and adjustment of payment points were aimed at easing the process and encouraging all motor dealers in possession of uncustomised vehicles to come forward and pay their duties.
According to him, “While payment remains Monday 13th March to Wednesday 12th April, the points of payments with the exception of Lagos and Port Harcourt will now be at the nearest customs area command.”
Attah stated that “private vehicle owners who know that duty has not been paid on their vehicles could take advantage of this grace period to do so”.
“Therefore, owners of such vehicles or their representatives are expected to go to the nearest pay point for assessment and payment. It should be noted that the 60 per cent rebate applies only within the grace period,” he added.
But he clarified that 2016 and 2017 vehicles were excluded from the rebate because of their status as new cars, which he said were not smuggled.
Attah added that the policy has the endorsement of auto dealers, a position buttressed by the presence of the National President of Association of Motor Dealers of Nigeria (AMDON), Mr. Ajibola Adedoyin, at the briefing.
Adedoyin at the briefing confirmed the association’s close collaboration with the Customs Service.
The decision to grant a grace period for duty payment on vehicles, Attah said, was borne out of consultations between the NCS and AMDON, adding that the latter had pleaded for a grace period to be granted to enable them pay outstanding duties on all uncustomised vehicles in the country before the ban on vehicle importation through the land borders commenced.
“We believe that when all vehicles are properly registered and owners’ identities tied to them, national security will be enhanced. The new statement that will come into play is in collaboration with the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and our planned operation of bonded vehicle terminals.
“There will come a time in the very near future when owners of smuggled vehicles will not be able to register these vehicles in Nigeria.
“These people pleaded that before this comes into effect, there is a need to create a window, a kind of period within which such vehicles within the country can be regularised.
“As regards the 60 per cent rebate, the idea, as I said, is to create a soft landing for people who are in possession of these vehicles. The 60 per cent rebate on the value of such vehicles across board from 2015 downwards simply means 60 per cent of the total value, which means the calculation will always be based on 40 per cent.
“Any private vehicle owner who wishes to take advantage of this period and pay duty will save himself a lot before the coming in to the system that will totally block him,” the NCS spokesman said.
He warned that any officer that compromises the policy by conniving with car owners would be dealt with.
“We have had cases when we dealt with connivance of our members that undermine the policy of the authority. If not, we would not have dismissed up to 49 officers late last year.
“As I speak to you, we still have officers in our detention cell. We won’t treat people who are compromised with kid’s gloves.
“The issue here is, those in possession of smuggled vehicles have the opportunity to regularise and pay duty before the take-off of the system that will totally block them out,” he said.
Responding to a question on why the NCS did not heed the Senate resolution, he said the Senate took the stand without a proper briefing on the details of the policy.
“Concerning the senators, I read in the media that they expect some kind of briefing from the comptroller-general. I am confident that the kind of information that will be made available to them will help shape their opinions on the way forward in this process,” he said.
In his remarks, Adedoyin said his association has been collaborating with Customs in the past few months.
“For the past few months, we have been trying to partner with the Customs Service to see how we can ensure that duties are paid for cars, and at the same time to ensure that the duty charged on something should be done on it, so that it can bring down the cost of vehicles.
“Vehicles are not luxury items but a necessity. Our association deems it important to collaborate with the Customs Service to see how we can have a win-win situation.
“In our several meetings with the Customs Service, we have been able to agree to work together to make this a success. We are building a platform to make it easy and check every car at our car stands.
“That platform will be ready. It’s already in the country and our consultants are working on it,” he said.