By Ray Ugochukwu
The National President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMLCA), Mr. Lucky Eyis Amiwero, has described as illegal, the recently introduced VIN-Valuation method of vehicles by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
In a chat with Seabreeze News at the weekend, Amiwero explained that there was no law backing what the service was doing; pointing out that the introduction was not even approved by the agency’s supervising ministry, the Ministry of Finance.
The National Council boss said going by even the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and other internationl bodies’ principles, the VIN-Valuation had no place in the books and it was not even a policy of the Federal Government. He accused the Customs of unilaterally introducing illegality into its operations; hence the obnoxious valuation method should be jettisoned immediately.
Hameed Ali, CG of Customs
Recently, there has been a general outcry over the Customs’ introduction of the policy which it said was initiated to satisfy the clamour of importers and their agents for uniform valuation on vehicles. The National Public Relations Officer (NPRO) of the Service, DC Timi Bomodi, had explained that the new valuation method was based on international value of automobiles.
He added that it was part of the automation of the system, which stakeholders had clamoured for over the years, in order to stem the alleged differentials in valuation for vehicles of same make and age at various ports.
He said it was a system devoid of human contact, which worked by feeding the system with the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to pop up the designated value for proper Customs assessment and wondered why the agents were protesting against it.
Amiwero, however debunked the claim by the Customs image maker, saying there had never been a general clamour for uniform valuation. He asserted that those who might have demanded for such were the uniformed clearing agents, who never understood the universal valuation system in Customs’ operation.
He said nowhere in the world would valuation of goods be uniform because, according to him, freight rates “can never be uniform”. Citing examples with the Lagos Port Complex and the Tin Can Island ports, Amiwero said the freight for goods destined to the two ports could never be the same; hence the fallacy of demand for uniform assessment.
The National Council boss faulted Customs for basing their import duty valuation on “advertised internet” prices of vehicles, saying that what the law advocated for was transaction value.
He explained that “the value of a car can be $10,000 on the internet and you discuss with the owner and he decides to give it to you at the price of $3,000. Will it now be right for the Customs to base their assessment on $10,000 internet price? It is never done and is unacceptable”.
Amiwero explained that universally, valuation of goods was based on 39 principles including the commercial value, time of arrival, quality of products, mode of transportation, among others. He therefore faulted Customs for sticking to just one of the principles, which was market value, at the exclusion of all other important elements.
When reminded that the Service might have acted based on the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA), its enabling law, Amiwero disagreed , maintaining that what the law stipulated was valuation of goods based on transaction value and not on advertised price.
Insisting that the new valuation method was illegal, he urged the service to immediately reverse the illegality, adding that it would not stand.
The frontline agent, who has served in many Federal Government maritime and allied committees, regretted that the urge to meet revenue targets had driven the Service to commit illegality. He lamented that the Service had sacrificed trade facilitation on the altars of revenue generation thereby stifling trade in the country.
Amiwero has therefore vowed to personally fight the valuation “illegality” to its logical conclusion.