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Clearing agents promoting illegality, says customs

By Sulaimon Salau
10 October 2021   |   2:19 am
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has decried the outburst by the clearing agents over its legitimate duty assessment process.

Nigerian Customs Service (NCS)

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has decried the outburst by the clearing agents over its legitimate duty assessment process.
 
The Customs stated that some agents and customs brokers have taken abnormalities as rights, and they have assumed the role of activists encouraging illegal behaviour. 

 
The Deputy National Public Relations Officer, NCS, Timi Bomodi, in a statement, said: “Officers of the Nigeria Customs have refused to be cowed. We have remained resolute in our commitment to the government by towing the path of honour. Our achievements in revenue collection and anti-smuggling speak for themselves.”
   
The agents, including the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), and the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), had earlier alleged that the present customs management is not interested in professionalism and trade facilitation, but to circumvent all processes for revenue generation. 
 
Bomodi said Customs actions have always been guided by Federal Government policy decisions in line with international agreements and conventions on trade. 
   
“Contrary to their claims, there has been no attempt to arbitrarily increase the license fee of Customs Licensed Agents.”

It is important to note that the fees payable by Customs Licensed agents areas approved by law outlined in section 156 of CEMA as amended. The only recourse to a revision in fees can only be as dictated to by extant laws,” he said.
 
He explained that “There are two main avenues for the adjustment of duty payable to government that a customs officer can legally activate. Where the transaction value declared for an item is questionable and where the classification of the item is wrong. The former refers to the declared CIF (Cost, Insurance and Freight) value, while the latter concerns the HS code for that item. Part II of the Common External Tariff prescribes ‘general rules for the interpretation of the harmonised system’. There are six rules in total and they provide clear, unambiguous guidelines for the classification of all goods under the CET (common external tariff),”
 

 
He said the NCS has noticed frequent attempts by importers, and, or their agents to falsify transaction values in order to evade the payment of correct duties. 
   
“Their insistence on uniform values for cars of the same make and manufacture is at best illogical when we agree that there are no uniform purchase prices especially for cars from diverse locations. A true declaration of purchase value for cars should suffice, but agents have been known to deliberately mislead importers, by promising them lower duties even when they’ve been furnished with the correct information. Competition among themselves for customers has itself become inimical to honest declarations for tax purposes. 
   
“We also note that trade compliance is a sine qua non for trade facilitation. Where the level of compliance is low, the level of control becomes high. Some agents and Customs brokers have taken abnormalities as rights. They have assumed the role of activists encouraging illegal behaviours. This cannot be accepted as no government agency worth its name will allow itself to be swayed by the whims and caprices of those whose actions they are supposed to superintend. Indeed it will be a complete dereliction of duty if we succumb to these and other attempts,” he stated.
   
He said while other factors remain constant, the increase in freight worldwide and exchange rate alone could trigger increases in value for duty.
   
Bomodi said: “We understand the frustrations of some of these agents as reports reaching Customs headquarters indicate a radical change in the trajectory of business practices at our ports and borders. This penchant for cutting corners as exemplified in false declarations and illegal deductions in Customs values are constantly checkmated by diligent officers intent on facilitating legitimate trade only. So their anger is not for the number of alerts in the system but for being stopped by it. 
 
“With the introduction of artificial intelligence and machine learning, more loopholes in the system will be identified and plugged. We hope when this happens, they will attend anger management classes to save themselves the cost of managing their health,” he stated.
 
Bomodi added that the recent installation of scanners at the ports would address the challenge of physical examination of goods and ultimately facilitate trade.