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Freight Forwarders may drag Customs to WCO over VIN controversy

Kayode Farinto, VP, ANLCA
—-say 30-day window not enough to clear backlog of cargo
Opeyemi Adesogbon
There seems no end to the war of attrition between the Nigeria Customs Service and the agitating freight forwarders over the controversial Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) evaluation policy.
The freight forwarders, who seem not satisfied with the way the Customs authority is handling the issues despite the suspension of the policy, have vowed to drag the revenue-generating agency before the World Customs Organisation (WCO) for resolution of the impasse.
Ventilating the grievances of the Customs brokers, Kayode Farinto, the Vice President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) said the confraternity of the clearing agents has mapped out a multi-prong approach to tackling the problem of VIN and making the Customs authority play the game by the rules.
Farinto, in an exclusive interview with our reporter over the weekend, lamented that the agency has not yet engaged the agitating freight forwarders in any strategic discussion on how the VIN policy would be reviewed.
“The customs haven’t engaged us in discussion up till now. If we have not forced them to do the right thing, probably the 30-day window they conceded to us would not have been possible.
”It is unfortunate that Nigeria is a country where anything goes. By now, somebody should have lost his job for making Importer pay over N600millon as storages charges, which was not the fault of the importers but due to lack of professionalism of the Customs, which is very very unfortunate,” Farinto lamented
He revealed that the customs brokers have decided to, first of all, take the customs before the National Assembly and if nothing meaningful comes out of that, the body will eventually petition the World Customs Organisation (WCO).
“We are going to report this issue to the National Assembly and by next week(this week), a letter will be going to the National Assembly on this issue in the interest of the nation.
“What happened at the National Assembly yesterday( last week Thursday) on the issue of e-invoicing and e-valuation where CBN thought that it can arrogate power to herself and we had to go there and discuss it.
“We must force Customs to go to National Assembly which will be subjected to debate and we will now look at the laws.
“There are two laws that we are talking about (1) we have the Customs and Excise Management Act (2)we have legal notice 30 which talk about wear and tear, wear and tear means that by virtue of your year of manufacture, you are entitled to 10% rebate, even a 2021  used vehicle, if you import it to Nigeria now, whatever is the value of that vehicle is entitled to 10 percent rebate and most of these vehicles are even entitled to 50% rebate, so what we were telling customs is that the value you have gotten, where did you get it from? where did it emanate from?
“We are talking about artificial intelligence, the issue of artificial intelligence deals with data and existing data.
“Where did you get your data from, what they did was to go on the internet, look at values, supposed values, assumed values that they imputed into the system. That is criminal, it’s illegal, it’s not in line with international best practices, it’s not professional.
“If WCO hears about this, it is going to expose Nigeria customs and we are going to give National Assembly one week, if by one week nothing is done, we will report this whole issue to WCO because in Nigeria now, we are suffering” declared the ANLCA Chief.
Farinto, who said the 30-day window created by the customs to enable the clearance of the backlog of cargo caught up in the strike action would not be enough, claimed that some importers have decided to suspend importation due to VIN controversy and watch until there is a clear-cut direction taken by the customs.
He further claimed importers have incurred a whooping sum of N600m demurrage charges due to the strike action instigated by the VIN controversy.
“They won’t be able to clear the backlog of goods within the 30-day period”
“I have like 20 importers who have told me that they would stop importation because they said they didn’t have an enabling environment, that the situation is unclear” Farinto declared.
“So, the 30- day window will not be enough and even at that, it is expected that they should engage the stakeholders. Who are the stakeholders, we are the licensed Customs agents?
“The WCO (WORLD CUSTOMS ORGANIZATION) yearbook 2013, said that every Customs nation must engage the stakeholders,  the licensed Customs brokers in the area of operations, and that will give you the smooth running of the operation, that will make you achieve whatever is your policy.
“The Customs cannot shave our heads in our absence.   Whether they like it or not, it’s a two ways thing.
” Nigeria customs service is looking at this as a bossy affair, it’s not true. We have licensed Customs Agents, I pay duties on behalf of my importers.
” All Customs does is to midwife the duties we pay. So the issue that Customs generate revenue is even an aberration, it is a wrong use of English Language.
“When you say somebody generates revenue, that means someone takes the money to the bank, and that is what we do and then give Customs the receipt who then midwife whatever we have paid.
“Our Customs operations here in Nigeria is still in a medieval stage despite the so-called automation processes.
“Even the Customs operations in the neighboring Cotonou is far better as they operate according to international best practices.” the ANLCA stated.
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Alleged cross- border smuggling of fuel: Fate of detained Customs officer uncertain — summoned, detained in Abuja

Owombo Segun John, the detained Customs officer
The Eyewitness reporter
The Customs officer, Owombo Segun John, who in a viral video last week, squealed  on alleged cross-border smuggling of refined petroleum products, with alleged official connivance, has been moved to the Customs headquarters in Abuja on the order of the Comptroller General of Customs,  Col. Hammed Ali(rtd) rt
According to Customs sources, the Customs officer, Owombo Segun, reportedly intercepted some fuel-laden tankers which allegedly wanted to cross to Cameroon, on Wednesday, November 2nd, 2022 but released the viral video of the incident on the 9th November, the following Wednesday.
Due to the viral video in which the customs officer alleged official connivance and threat to life, he was promptly arrested on the order of his supervising Controller Adesanmi Omiye in charge of Federal Operations Unit(FOU) Zone D, Adamawa, where the officer was attached to.
However, the source claimed that the officer, who has already been detained by his supervising Controller since November 9th, 2020, having been adjudged as of unsound mind by the Customs authority, was transferred to the Abuja headquarters on Monday, November 14th, 2022 on the order of the CGC.
Confirming the transfer of the officer to Abuja, DC Timi Bomodi, the Customs National Public Relations Officer, said this was to conduct further investigation and possibly to meet with the CGC while in detention.
“Yes, he has been transferred to Abuja for further investigation” declared Bomodi.
He queried the motive of the officer involved in the episode, adding that further investigation will reveal his real reason.
“I want the public to interrogate the motive of the officer and disregard his allegations of threat to life.
”The incident where he arrested the tankers drivers who have valid documents to show they wanted to discharge their products to the petrol stations within the Nigerian territory, happened on Wednesday, November 2nd but he did the video on November 9th, 2022.
“If they wanted to eliminate him as he claimed, he could have been killed between the 2nd when the incident happened and the 9th, when he released the video.
”He also failed to report to his supervisor of his discovery, if he had a genuine motive or he is of sound mind.
”Why didn’t he also report to the headquarters his findings?
”Neither did he report to any of the security agencies which any rational thinking- officer could have done in such a circumstance.
”He didn’t take any of these rational options of reporting the case but chose to make a video of the incident in incoherent words while he was half naked” declared Bomodi.
He said that the initial investigation into the matter has revealed so much information which he claimed will shock the public when it is released.
Bomodi said he could not say anything about the fate of the officer until the final investigation which will determine his real motive and fate
However, one of the siblings of the detained officer dismissed customs’ claim that Owombo Segun is of unsound mind
“My brother is a very brilliant man. Someone that was posted to Adamawa and has been working there since, how can you now say he is insane? That is a lie. They are just trying to cover up.”
“The claim that he was found naked is also not true. He told me that immediately after he released the video, he was attacked by some customs officers and tanker drivers. He even told me that if he is allowed, he has some evidence to back up his claim,” he added.
Bomodi however wondered why the said officer, whom he said has been operating for the past two years at Malabo Checkpoint on Belel Road, Adamawa state,  has not come out with such findings which he bandied in the viral video.
“The state in which this officer depicted himself in this video, his comportment and his speech suggests a level of incoherence associated with people of an unstable mind.
” Indeed, his actions led to his immediate withdrawal by the Controller Federal Operations Unit Zone ‘D’, who instructed his detention pending medical evaluation” the customs authority had retorted in a statement last week when the embarrassing video hit the public space.
A highly placed Customs source claimed that the fate of the incarcerated officer now hangs in the balance as he may be eased out of the service for the viral video which he said thoroughly embarrassed the Customs top hierarchy.
“Unless providence intervenes in his favour, the officer may be on his way out of the service” the source declared
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Customs demonises officer amidst claims of official complicity in smuggling of petroleum products across border

Comptroller Adesanmi Omiye
The Eyewitness reporter
The Nigeria Customs Service has described as an “unstable mind” one of his patrol officers attached to the Federal Operations Unit Zone D in Adamawa over his outlandish claims which indicted a customs controller of compromise in the smuggling of petroleum products across the Nigeria-Cameroon border.
The unnamed officer, in a viral video, showing fully-loaded tankers carrying Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as Petrol along Nigeria- Cameroon border, claimed that the products were being smuggled across the border to Cameroon.
The officer, speaking in Yoruba, further claimed that after he stopped the tankers with smuggled products, he was allegedly summoned by a customs Controller whose name he didn’t mention, claiming that he was being threatened for daring to stop the illicit act.
While pouring vituperation on the unnamed Controller, he said he has spent 11 years at the borders, stopping the smuggling of Nigerian oil across the borders, but was never rewarded with juicy postings to the choice commands in Lagos ports or Seme border.
Mr Adesanmi Omiye is the Customs Comptroller in charge of the zone.
Reacting to the embarrassing viral video, the Customs Service dismissed the claims of the officer whom it said was of an unstable mind.
In the statement signed by the National Public Relations Officer of Customs, Deputy Comptroller Timi Bomodi, the said officer has since been arrested and awaiting medical evaluation.
 “Nigeria Customs Service is compelled to respond to a recent video making the rounds on social media.

” This video depicts a half-clad individual recording himself while claiming to have arrested trucks carrying premium motor spirit across the border as an officer of Nigeria Customs Service.

“The facts are as follows; the person in the video is indeed an officer of Nigeria Customs Service, and he is currently attached to the Federal Operations Unit Zone D in Adamawa.

“This incident occurred on Wednesday 2nd of November 2022 at Malabo Checkpoint on Belel Road, Adamawa state.

” It is important to note that 55 kilometers separate this location from the nearest border.

“Between the place where this incident occurred and the border, there are fully operational petrol stations.

” Preliminary investigations indicate that the drivers on these trucks were in possession of duly signed product distribution sheets for consignments allocated by PPMC for filling stations within that vicinity.

” As vehicles in transit, they are considered still to be well within city limits and therefore can neither be accused of nor arrested for transporting goods across the border.

“All our officers are compelled by a strict dress code to not only be in uniform while on duty, but to adorn their name tags for easy identification by members of the public.

“The state in which this officer depicted himself in this video, his comportment and his speech suggests a level of incoherence associated with people of an unstable mind.

” Indeed, his actions led to his immediate withdrawal by the Controller Federal Operations Unit Zone ‘D’, who instructed his detention pending medical evaluation.

“The NCS seriously frowns at any action that is inimical to the economic well-being of our nation.

” Our battle with smuggling has been unequivocal and unyielding. Our checkpoints are usually manned by a team of officers all of whom are assigned specific responsibilities.

“The levels of checks and counter-checks created as part of the NCS strategic enforcement initiative have made it extremely difficult for breaches to occur.

“Nigeria Customs Service wants to assure members of the public of the commitment of its officers and men to securing our borders.

“We ask for your understanding in this endeavor even as we seek your prayers for those whose health and well-being may have been compromised by stress while carrying out their onerous assignment” the statement concluded.
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Ember months:  Lagos ports record low cargo clearance activities 

—as cash crunch hits importers 
The Eyewitness reporter
The usual frenzied tempo in goods clearance during the ember months has disappeared from the Lagos ports due to a cash crunch among importers.
Usually this time of ember months, there is always high frequency of clearance of goods at the ports by importers and their agents but such enthusiasm has considerably waned as fewer numbers of importers who could surmount the economic hardship coupled with the astronomical increase in Customs dues and tariffs are able to take their goods out of the port.
Curiously, the customs commands are posting huge revenues amidst this tight fiscal policy of the government.
For example, the Apapa Customs command, the flagship Command of the service which accounts for about two third of the annual revenue of the service, last week announced the revenue of N790.630billion within the first 9 months of the year(January- September).
The Area Controller of the command, Comptroller Yusuf Malanta Ibrahim promised that the command will likely gross a trillion naira in revenue at the end of the year.
Then where does this huge revenue come from amidst sluggish clearing activities at the ports?
It was gathered that the recent increase in the Customs exchange rate by the federal government boosted the monthly earnings of the customs.
It could be recalled that for yet another time in September, the Customs exchange rate was jerked up from $409 to $422.3, an increment of $13.3.
Comptroller Yusuf, while confirming the impact of the increase in the customs exchange rate on the revenue profile of the command, also declared that the increment has a negative impact on the clearing activities.
“The increment in the customs exchange rate has also led to an increase in our revenue” the Apapa Customs chief declared.
He however confessed that the increase in the exchange rate was an additional overhead cost for importers.
“It is an unexpected increase”
Explaining why the hustle and bustle in clearing activities during the ember months are lacking this year, Comptroller Yusuf said importers are hit by a cash crunch as they could not even procure loans from the banks to clear their goods.
” The increase in the exchange rate has become another overhead cost for importers as it is unexpected.
“Prediction of the market is becoming increasingly difficult for the to make.
“However, it depends on the market response.
” If the market forces respond positively to the increase, it is fine, if it doesn’t, that’s another challenge.
“That is where a good businessman will sit down and make an informed analysis between the operating environment and corporate environment where he operates” Comptroller Yusuf declared.
He however said that the cargo is there at the Port but the rate of clearing them is slow.
“The pressure is on the cargothrouput . The cargo is there.
”When you look at the Port, there is so much cargo but the issue is importers are finding it difficult to clear these cargoes because of lack of funds.
” They find it difficult to obtain loans from the banks to clear them, they are finding it difficult to get the right response from the market forces.
”Some of them have to clear part of their cargo, sell them to get money and use the amount to clear the rest of the cargo.
”This is why the cargo clearance exercise is lower now in this ember months as against other previous ember months
because importers lack funds to carry out this clearing process” the Apapa Customs command boss explained.
Conversely, the customs commands are grossing more revenue because, according to Comptroller Yusuf, the men and officers of the command are tirelessly committed to ensuring that all revenue leakages are mitigated as well as sustaining the level of compliance by importers and other stakeholders in the clearance value chain.
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