By Stephen Ubanna
In spite of the drop in Containerised cargo cargo imports through the nation’s nation’s seaports of Apapa, Tincan Island, Port Multi-service Terminal Limited, PTML and Onne seaport, between January and now, Comptrollers Adekunle Oloyede and Festus Okun of Tincan Island and PTML, Commands respectively may heave a sigh of relief is generating more revenue with the implementation of the Vehicle Identification Number, VIN, and e-payment policies at the ports.
Described as a Valuation mode, introduced at the seaports by the Federal government at the instance of Zainab Ahmed, minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning and Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS maritime analysts had said that it will go a long way to boost the service revenue generation ability to meet the N4.1 trillion target set by the service management against the N2.2 trillion set by the government. Feelers from the Tin can Island port and PTML, reveals, that revenue that collected on vehicular cargo imports between January and now, was very impressive compared to what the same period in the last two years.
Recall hat last January, members of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, National Association of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, NAMDLCA and Freight Forwarding agencies among had shut down Operations at Tincan Island port and PTML, gone on to forestall the Area Comptrollers of the the two Customs Commands: Tincan Island and PTML, from embarking on implementing the e-payment on vehicular cargo imports into the country. President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army Generral may have taken advantage that the terminal operators’ decision to increase their terminal charges by 50 to introduce the VIN into the system to shore up the governement’s non oil revenue at the ports.
This may have ammunition to the Area Comptrollers at the Tincan Island and PTML that have RORO terminals to make mandatory for all vehicular cargo importers to pay their Customs duty through e-payment. . Note that the Tin-can Island RORO Terminal, is operated by Five Stars Logistics Limited, allegedly owned by Theophilous Danjuma, a retired Army General and former minister of Defence, during Olusegun Obasanjo’s Administration.
The Leadership of ANLCA, NAGAFF, NAMDLCA, and other Associations had mobilised their members at the port to stop the Commands from implementing the e-payment policy which was backed by Law. The e-payment had been described in Customs circles as an’’ improved mode of duty collection on vehicular cargo. The agents made all the effort to force the Customs Authorities backpedal on the policy but that was how far they could go. They have no option but to return back to work to delivery of their clients vehicular imports when they found that the Customs Authorities were not ready to bow to pressure to reverse the decision.
Comptroller Okun, who believes that’’ the VIN, is in line with modernization of the service processes by the present Ali led Management of the NCS’’, had said that ‘’it will bring about uniformity of value across all Customs Formations nation-wide. The Customs Comptroller had said that with the implementation of the e-payment, the era of agents physical contact between agents and Officers on the Vehicle and Valuation Seats is over.
A senior Customs officer who spoke to The Value News on condition of anonymity disclosed that with the e-payment system, the agents will no longer have the opportunity of influencing officers to remove discretionary duty value as they would now have the free hand of addressing the problems of variations in value of same vehicle model and age of vehicle in the various Commands.
Appealing to the vehicular cargo importers with their agents w ‘’to open up their mind to the new reality on ground instead of working against the e-payment policy, the PTML Comptroller who may have also spoken the mind of Comptroller Oloyede of Tincan Island Command appears to have heaved a sigh of relief when he declared that ‘’it will not only boost the monthly revenue collection of the Command through trade facilitation but will save time’’. The Command had generated N224.470 billion last year, with much of the duty collection , coming from vehicle imports through the terminal, Comptroller Okun, is optimistic that that the Command will surpass the 2021, cumulative revenue collection , with the implementation of the VIN and introduction of e-payment , which have somewhat reduced human contacts at the terminal.
The PTML, Customs boss, was said to have sent a message to the importers with their agents using the Terminal to take delivery of their vehicular cargo that anyone caught on the wrong side of the Customs and Excise Management Act, Cap 2004, would be sanctioned accordingly.
He has made it clear to the vehicular cargo importers with their agents that with ‘’the new robust audit system that had been put in place by the service will expose such infractions of wrong Classifications, false declaration, Concealment and underpayments , which attract Demand Notice, DN, being issued to the importer through the agent to recover the evaded revenue.
As a prelude to ensuring that importers with the agents would be on the safe side without playing into the hands of the Command Enforcement Officers at the terminals , Headquarters Strike Force Team Team A, under the close watch of Deputy Comptroller Mohammed Yusuf , with the use of its Information Communication Technology, ICT, facility, at its Apapa base or the Federal Operations Unit, Ikeja, Lagos, personnel, stationed at strategic locations along the Apapa –Mile II, expressway, may have informed why Comptroller Okun, held a meeting with the stakeholders at the Command premises on Tuesday, February 15, 2022, to acquaint them with new policy on valuation for vehicular cargo imports into the country.
The PTML Command Comptroller, may have simplified the VIN to the understanding of the industry stakeholders at the meeting by relating it ‘’to some of the core principles of trade facilitation’’. He had urged the stakeholders ‘’to look at the trade facilitation principle and kyoto Convention and study ‘’what they are saying to get a better understanding of the working of the VIN, stressing that’’ it is all about processes and procedures that need to be simplified, to have harmonization, to put integrity into the system for uniformity and predictability, noting’’.
Aminu Jalal, Director General, National Automotive Council, NAC, Emmanuel Jime, Executive Secretary , Nigerian Shippers Council,and Mohammed Bello Koko, Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, , may have that VIN, is a goldmine for the NCS to generate more revenue and for taxes to be paid at the ports because of ‘’ its predictability and harmonization between all the nation’s ports and terminals that they have agreed to partner with the Ali led NCS, and other government agencies in the development of a Portal for all vehicles imported into the country.
Giving an insider information on the workings of the proposed Portal, Jalal, the NAC, Director General had said that ‘’it will play a key role in the Registration of vehicles imported into the country through the use of the VIN. Going by the workings of the VIN, the NAC, Director General disclosed that ‘’by the time an importer pays the duty for the vehicular cargo, it will be recorded against that particular vehicle and by the time it is registered with the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, , the name of the owner and the Registration Number will be included .
Another good thing about the VIN, he said was is that if ‘’the vehicle importer decides to sell it to someone else , it will be changed so that once you pick the VIN, and go to the website, ‘’the complete data on the vehicle will show including when it was manufactured’’.
Recall that the government had delayed the implementation of the 35% Levy on vehicular cargo imports into the country to enable INNOSON and other Local Vehicle Assembly Plants more time’’ to roll out their products as not to create gap between demand supply.
Jalal, the NAC boss may have shocked industry stakeholders when he revealed that’’ VIN would be contained in the bill of lading that will show the year of manufacture of any imported vehicular cargo’’. It is not surprising why NAC, is pushing to ensure that that vehicular cargo importer put the VIN in the bill of lading in the portal that would be created by the all the government agencies at the seaports.