16 June 2014, Lagos – Clearing agents operating in the nation’s seaports have cried out over alleged re-introduction of the controversial benchmark for all imported consignments, saying that the introduction has hiked cost of clearing goods by 200 per cent. Customs has however claimed that the new scheme was brought back to enable the Service meet its revenue target.
National Secretary of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, NCMDLCA, Uchu Block, who disclosed this to Vanguard, explained that the re-introduction has driven up the cost of clearing goods from the ports by over 200 percent.
Block noted that items like grinded corn for the production of Noodles which costs about N5 million to clear up unti l last year, now costs about N17 million for the same item and the same quantity.
The NCMDLCA scribe pointed out that the situation is affecting clearing process at the port and worse still, there is no one to complain to. He further noted that even when there is a channel for complaint, people would not want to come forward as the delay may cost them more in terms of demurrage.
Responding to the above however, the Public Relations Officer of Tin-can Island Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, Chris Osunkwo, said that it is not true that the Service has re-introduced the contentious benchmark.
Osunkwo told Vanguard that the Service is only carrying out government directive on the issue and explained that the current duty rate is based on the international standard set by the World Customs Organisation, WCO.
In his words, “There is no iota of truth there but there is a procedure for determining value for any imported item. No body gets up and determines the value of a product, there are lay down procedures and standards for determining it.
“If what they call benchmark is the application of the standards, so be it because valuation matter is not a Nigeria Customs matter alone. It is a universal thing which was introduced by the WCO.
“As such we (Customs) must play by the rules of the game. So these are standards set by the WCO because we are a member.”
“Does Customs still charge different duties on similar goods at the various ports across the country, no, there is uniformity because we receive our directive from government based on its policy and it is this policy that determines how much the Service will collect as duty from any import into the country.
“Take for example duty on imported vehicles, there is a government policy that says collect 35 percent more on all imported vehicles and there is a government circular from the ministry of finance to that effect and that is what Customs is implementing.
“We cannot act in isolation. We cannot just wake up and jack up the value on imports. Some people criticise out of ignorance,” he noted.