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Customs, others cash in on new vehicle charges as importers groan

By Adaku Onyenucheya
26 November 2021   |   3:04 am
Importers and freight forwarders groan over multiple charges and extortions following the government's new policies on clearing imported vehicles.

Custom

Importers and freight forwarders groan over multiple charges and extortions following the government’s new policies on clearing imported vehicles.

The policies include the National Vehicle Registry (VREG), Practitioners Operating Fee (POF), Temporary Vehicle Tag (TVT), Wharf Landing, Tax Identification Number (TIN) and Direct Traders Input (DTI).

Findings by The Guardian revealed that payments for VREG start from N6,000 depending on the year of production of a vehicle.

Apart from VREG, vehicle importers are compelled to pay N1,000 POF earlier introduced by the Federal Ministry of Transport through the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN).

Still, vehicle importers are compelled to pay N3, 600 as TVT, a newly introduced levy by the Lagos State Government and N500 as Wharf Landing Fee. Another is the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) estate charge on containers, which are paid at various bonded terminals.

Already, Direct Traders Input (DTI) cafe operators are milking importers via VREG, with freight forwarders who do not have knowledge on technology and cannot perfect documentation by themselves paying through their nose for their services.

They complained that though the Federal Ministry of Finance is yet to complete the pilot phase of the project, it has made no difference and that businesses are feeling the brunt.

The National Publicity Secretary of the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria, (ARFFN), Taiwo Fatomilola, lamented that importers and agents lose N1 billion daily to the new charges.

He alleged that the officials of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) are cashing out while poor servers delay access to the TIN and VREG payment process.

“We have accessed the TIN and paid, but the transaction has not reflected on the Customs website in the past week. What people are now doing is to bribe the FIRS with more than N15, 000 on each consignment,” he said.

Speaking on wharf landing cost, Fatomilola alleged: “The officials of Lagos authority hide so that you would see them to pay the N500. When you are about to leave, they will come out and arrest us demanding N200, 000 to N300, 000 as a fine for defaulting in payment. At the end of the day, depending on your bargaining power, you end up paying N50, 000 to N100, 000.”

The Chairman of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Tin Can Port Chapter, Muhammed Mojeed, said the VREG Certificate payment is an additional cost on vehicle clearance.

Mojeed lamented that VREG is an addition to the POF earlier introduced by the Federal Ministry of Transport. He urged DTI operators to stop taking advantage of agents under the guise of VREG.

Another clearing agent, Adebowale Bare, said VREG creates an additional burden on vehicle importers.

According to him, without registering and paying VREG, even with the TIN one cannot capture or clear a vehicle at the port.

“On wharf landing, we pay N300 per car, N500 on a bus and SUV, N500 on a 20ft container and N1,000 on a 40ft container,” he said.

Reacting, the Registrar, CRFFN, Samuel Nwakohu, said poor digital knowledge on the part of the agents was responsible for the excessive fees paid on POF.

He said the Council collects only N1, 000, which is paid to the Federal Government. He charged agents to equip themselves with the right digital skills and knowledge to process the POF.