Customs Alleges Compromise by Valuation Officers in Vehicle Importation Cases

The Nigeria Customs Service has lodged allegations against valuation officers responsible for imported vehicle assessment across different command centers. They assert that these officers are failing to adhere to the prescribed protocol for the examination, valuation, and release of imported pre-owned automobiles.

A circular titled “Re-Conduct of Examination and Release of Used Vehicles,” dated August 24 and signed by Assistant Comptroller General C.K. Niagwan, has been observed by The PUNCH. Within this circular, the service stipulates that imported vehicles should undergo valuation procedures to verify the specific details of the imported automobile, including its trim, in order to determine the accurate value, rather than relying solely on a base value.

The circular’s content states, “A matter of considerable concern has arisen in relation to the adherence to proper procedures for the examination, valuation, and release of used vehicles. For absolute clarity, following examination, all used vehicles should be directed to the valuation area to validate the details of the imported vehicle, including its trim, for the appropriate valuation, as opposed to utilizing a standard base value. In light of the above, you are hereby requested to re-educate all personnel handling examination and valuation on this process, in order to avert potential revenue losses. Ensuring strict adherence to this process is imperative.”

In response, authorized customs agents have expressed apprehensions that this revised procedure could result in delays in the clearance process for imported vehicles. The youth leader of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, Remilekun Sikiru, contends that the Vehicles Identification Number (VIN) system should inherently encompass these aspects.

Sikiru, CEO of Sikremstar Logistics Limited, contends that this revised process will prolong the time required for clearing imported used cars. “The conventional VIN process is structured to incorporate all pertinent information, including trim, engine capacity, and other factors. However, in Nigeria, the situation appears to be reversed. This updated process seems reminiscent of reverting to outdated clearance methods, which could potentially obstruct trade facilitation. As a result, this process is predicted to extend processing time by 2-3 days, introducing human intervention and creating room for exploitation. Furthermore, it may also incur increased demurrage charges. The question then becomes: who bears these demurrage costs? Instead, why not adopt the appropriate approach by integrating this chassis data into the VIN valuation, as initially promised? We’ve long been advocating for this change. Importation has already seen a significant 70% decline, and numerous freight forwarders, particularly young professionals, have ceased operations due to stringent governmental policies. The NCS should conduct a thorough reassessment of this approach, as it could potentially impede trade facilitation processes.”

Another ANLCA representative, Babatunde Mukaila, further stated, “We perceive this as another attempt by customs to undermine the VIN platform. If your valuation officers are straying from proper practices, the solution lies in correcting their behavior and not regressing to outdated methods. We refuse to regress to earlier practices, and we trust that this reaction will prompt Customs to reconsider their stance. We are steadfast in our refusal to revert to outdated manual systems.” Mukaila concluded.

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