Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has expressed disappointment over attitude of some freight agents who are against the introduction of online platform for prompt clearing of vehicles in the port

The National Public Relations Officer, Deputy Controller Timi Bomodi submitted that the same people who clamoured for automation are the same people who insist on human interference.

According to him, the agents demanded simplification but still preferred some complications in clearing process even as he said that the Service was unmoved as long as it translates to payment of every necessary tax to the government.

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Full text of the statement, “A cursory review of online, print newspapers and journals focused on maritime related issues reveal certain curiosities among a few freight forwarding practitioners and clearing agents.

“In this peculiar group of individuals will be found those who demand the automation of Customs processes but still insist on human interference. They demand standardisation but prefer randomized values. They demand simplification of trade processes but prefer a little complication here and there. For this lot the contradictions in their demands makes sense so long as it translates to the payment of the least tax to government. Their propensity to give advice but not to take it smacks of hypocrisy and should be called out by well meaning Nigerians.

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“In recent times the concensus among clearing agents on the valuation of used vehicles appear to favour a harmonized value system that is consistent across all Customs platforms in Nigeria. They insisted that the same make, and model of cars should be made to pay the same amount of duty.

“These agents also demanded the discontinuation of the discounted value method which allowed for the subjective considerations of officers in the Customs Valuation Unit who rely mainly on the book value of vehicles discounted at a fixed rate over time.

“In 2022 their prayers have been answered. NCS introduced VIN- Valuation as a fully automated tool devoid of human interference, capable of aggregating values from countries of export, consistent in make and model of cars for the purpose of assessing duty. This system uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to pull together trade data representing a range of values consistent for each car make and model using the Vehicle Identity Number (VIN). It is totally devoid of human inputs by NCS officers, and enables easy and fast assessments necessary to process duty payments. Indeed time motion studies confirm a maximum of 6 hours between automated assessments and release of cars using VIN-Valuation.

“Before the introduction of this tool, town hall meetings were held across the country stating its benefits, one of the greatest being trade facilitation. Following the demands of agents for a simplified system which recognises standard values, NCS was confident that this innovation in its clearing process will satisfy the desires of agents clamouring for change.

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“The resistance to VIN-Valuation therefore comes as a surprise seeing that it was deliberately designed to meet their demands. It also compels us to investigate further the intentions of those protesting its use. When our Valuation officers gave out ex-factory prices for duty assessment they were accused of collecting monetary inducements to give lower values. It will be interesting to know what these same agents/importers will accuse the machines of. Maybe this time it will be machine discrimination, or discrimination based on non digital considerations.

“The truth is that most of the individuals protesting the introduction of VIN-Valuation do not care about automation, simplification, harmonisation or even transparency in the system. They do not care about the wellbeing of the country or the industry they claim to represent. All they care about are the personal benefits accruable from milking the system. They want to pay as little import duty as possible and keep the chunk of the monies for themselves. These persons advocate chaos rather than order. They thrive in wheeling, dealing environments where the price of everything is negotiable.

“NCS under the able leadership of Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd) is poised to rewrite history by reinventing Customs operations in its entirety. The vision of this administration is to create environments conducive for facilitating trade that is consistent and predictable with little to non human interference. VIN-Valuation is only one in a series of innovations designed for this purpose. The earlier agents and importers come to terms with this reality the better it will be for everyone.

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“NCS therefore urges well meaning Nigerians to embrace the electronic services that are being put at their disposal. Importers who have valid Tax Identity Numbers (TIN) can do self assessment and pay duty by themselves. We implore licensed Customs agents to also be honest in their declarations as it will go a long way in expediting the release of their goods out of Customs control.”

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