Anxiety at ports over Customs irregular tariff regime

Port Lagos26 September 2013, Lagos – There are indications that Customs agents in Lagos ports may down tools tp protest the irregular Customs tariffs classification on cargoes which operators said they received from the Headquarters of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, in Abuja.

It was gathered that the alert usually comes under different nomenclatures such as, ‘Abuja alert’, ‘CPC alert’, ‘jack alert’, and ‘committee alert’, among others. Sources at the Tin Can Island Port said tension is already high and that any moment from now, a protest by customs and freight forwarders may ensue.

Freight forwarders at the PTML custom command also alleged that after valuation officer issues value to be paid on a cargo and after the money has been paid, the customs still go ahead to issue alerts on the same cargo, thereby subjecting the importer to another round of payments.

It was gathered that the executives of the freight forwarding associations have detached themselves from the complaints and that agents may take the law into their hands any moment from now. ”The chairmen may not be able to curtail it if anything that happens here, we will not be held responsible because right now it is getting out of hand” the source said.

“Valuation is the area we are having problems, whatever you do here, you will get headquarters alert, valuation alert, CPC alert and jack alert and you will not know which one you are facing”

It was also gathered that a meeting was held at the PTML custom command last week with the Custom Area Controller; Mr. Tajudeen Olanrewaju and all sectional heads of the command where they promised to look into the issue.

Also confirming the trend at the Tin Can Island Container Terminal, TICT, National Treasurer of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, Mr. Simeon Olua said the alert problem has become the topic of the day, even as he alleged that the Comptroller General of Customs, Abdullahi Nde Dikko cannot feign ignorance on the matter.

Olua said that apart from the alerts, the assessment that should be issued to correct the valuation problem is not always issued to the agent on time.”How can it be that in a system you will have ‘headquarters alert’, ‘CPC alert’, ‘Committee alert’ on almost every job there is an alert, and the greatest problem is that they don’t even have sufficient officers to manage the printing of assessment for the payment.’

“At TICT , only one person is handling the issue of alert and printing the assessment which is not acceptable, some of us stay five to six days in the process of printing assessment for the alert. Tthis means you are begging government to give you assessment for you to pay duty.” He alleged further that it costs between N10, 000 and N20, 000 to print assessment in order to pay for the generated alerts.

However, the image maker of the PTML Custom Command, Mr. Steve Okonmah explained that the customs have a new valuation regime which all commands are using.

He explained that an audit system alerts is issued on a cargo from customs headquarters if the value paid on the cargo is below what the importer ought to have paid. “By the time you go to release your job and it is lower than the new tariff regime, no matter how you punch it, it must show. When this is detected they send you back to the valuation” he clarified.

– By Godwin Oritse, Vanguard

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