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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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News Alert: Wale Adeniyi revives CG conference, holds 2023 edition December 13-15 in Lagos.

Wale Adeniyi, CGC
The Eyewitness Reporter
After 11 years of interregnum in the annual Comptroller General of Customs conference, Adewale Adeniyi, the Customs boss, has announced the rescucitation of the annual conference which holds December, this year.
In the social media broadcast, Adeniyi said he was delighted to announce that the 2023 CG Conference will hold from December 13th- 15th, 2023 at the Grand Africa Ballroom of the prestigious Continental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.
The theme of this year’s conference, according to the CGC, is “Leveraging Data Analytics for Secure and Efficient Trade Facilitation in Customs Operations”.
The Vice President of Nigeria, Senator Kashim Shettima, is expected as the special guest of honour while the Governor of Lagos state, Mr Babajide Sanwo- Olu and the Minister of Finance and the coordinating minister of Economy, Wale Edun, are also expected to grace the occasion.
Adeniyi stated that this year’s conference will centre around the discussion on implementing new measures to enhance service operations, championing secure and efficient operations across the federation.
“In line with my efforts and that of my management team to modernize the Nigeria Customs service through leveraging technology-driven Customs to shape the future of our operations, I am inviting you to this year’s Comptroller General Conference scheduled for 13tg to 15th December 2023 at the Grand Ballroom, Continental Hotel, Lagos.
” The theme of this year’s conference is Leveraging Data Analytics for Secure and Efficient Trade Facilitation in Customs Service.
” We are embracing innovation, utilizing the power of analytics to ensure the security and efficiency of Customs Operations.
“This significant event will centre around discussion on implementing new measures to enhance the service operations, championing secure and efficient operations across the federation.
“It will serve as a platform for attracting new business stakeholders to our shore.
” Don’t miss this opportunity to be part of this renewed hope experience as we consolidate on the achievements of the past, collaborate with our stakeholders and of course, bring in innovation to drive Customs Operations.
“The conference will be graced by esteemed guests, including the Vice-President, Senator Kashim Shettima as the special guest of honour, the governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the Finance Minister, Wale Edun” the CGC announced.
The CG conference is a platform for interaction where customs reviews its past operations and project for the future.
The last conference was held in 2012 in Katsina state.
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Adeniyi seeks Senate support to enhance Customs’ automation process

The Eyewitness Reporter 
The Nigeria Customs Service has sought the intervention of the National Assembly Senate Committee on Customs to address its core needs by providing modern tools for the complete automation of its operations to enhance trade facilitation and revenue generation.
Comptroller-General of Customs Bashir Adewale Adeniyi made this plea on Tuesday, November 28, 2023, at the Senate Wing, National Assembly, Abuja. He emphasized that this call underscores the Customs Service’s commitment to fostering economic growth, job creation, and dynamic trade relations.
Regarding the Senate Committee’s interest in doubling the NCS’s efforts in revenue generation, CGC Adeniyi emphasized, “not only introducing them but also standardizing them to enhance Customs’ clearance processes, revenue generation, which will be a better experience for both Customs administration and stakeholders.”
He recalled the initiation of the automation process by the Nigeria Customs Service in the late 1990s when it purchased modern gadgets, including computers and software, as part of the Service’s efforts to introduce computerization processes.
Discussing the concession issue, CGC Bashir Adeniyi highlighted some of the objectives of the Nigeria Customs Service’s requests to automate its operations. “The first major objective of the consortium was to provide an end-to-end ICT platform to digitalize procedures and processes.
The second one is to look at the present infrastructure and update it in line with international standards, ranking amongst the best in the world.” He noted.
He explained that the third objective was to provide technology-based solutions to address challenges faced by the Service, emphasizing, “The last part is the general organization of our infrastructure to provide the tools needed that will be associated with these objectives, deliverables, and part of deliverables first is to build a Unified Customs Management System.”
CGC Adeniyi further explained to the committee members, “The system needs to process the traditions of goods that will provide electronic party systems for the Service whereby its entire processes would be automated.”
He added, “The conditions of the non-intrusive inspection system include provisions, revisions of cargo tracking systems, intelligent gates, new infrastructure, like a data center to build the capacity of officers because it is essential in the last phase of the project.”
Speaking on the Service’s strategic approach to enhancing trade and ensuring smooth businesses for local traders, CGC Adeniyi urged the Senators to actively support local business people in exporting items, emphasizing that such a perspective shift could significantly contribute to boosting Nigeria’s economy and play a pivotal role in job creation.
Responding to the Chairman Committee’s call on the Service to double efforts in revenue generation, CGC Adeniyi highlighted some measures that should be adopted to achieve giant strides. He added, “If we properly monitor the impact of these kinds of instruments, they do not represent an absolute loss to the economy.”
He also mentioned that adopting these measures would create jobs for Nigerians, enhance tax payments, attract investors, and rejuvenate industrial sectors, which, according to him, would not be a loss for the economy.
In response, Senator Muhammad Sani, the Chairman of the Committee, commended Adeniyi for the strides made in revenue generation.
Expressing optimism, Senator Sani asserted that the Nigeria Customs Service, with its recent revenue records, appeared poised to multiply its financial contributions—an imperative for the country given its current economic needs.
He said, “By encouraging a more balanced approach, the aim is to empower local businesses through increased attention to export initiatives, aligning with a broader vision for a sustainable economic landscape.”
A similar interactive session with the Procurement Committee from the House of Representatives shed light on the financial commitments of the Nigeria Customs Service.  However,  discussions were postponed to another date.
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News Alert: Six Tin Can Customs officers reject $54,330 Tramadol bribe money 

The Eyewitness Reporter
The Customs Area Controller of Tin Can Island Port Command, Comptroller Dera Nnadi, has commended the six officers of the command who refused to be compromised with the mouth-watering amount of $54,330( about N50 million) by drug dealers who tried to smuggle in a consignment of Tramadol through the Tin Can Island port.
While handing over the bribe money this Tuesday, November 28th, 2023, to the Lagos Zonal Commander of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) , Mr. Michael Wetkas, Comptroller Nnadi reiterated the zero tolerance for corruption stance of the Comptroller General of Customs, Adewale Adeniyi.
 The Tramadol was falsely declared as electrical appliances valued at over N856m with a view to concealing them while the cash was offered to compromise the customs officers.
Nnadi said the act was in clear violation of Section 233 of the Nigeria Customs Service Act (NCAA) 2023 and commended the officers who stood their grounds to work ethically and lawfully in the interest of national security
He further called for continuous compliance on the part of port users and reminded them that the NCS with the collaboration of sister agencies like EFCC will continue to frustrate criminal activities in the port
Nnadi thanked Comptroller Oloyede, who under his watch, this seizure was achieved and described him as a good example of the NCS.
He said the two suspects arrested in connection with the two containers are currently being investigated by the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control for possible prosecution.
Mr. Michael Wekas, while taking over the cash, described the feat as a victory for the country and for all the security agencies.
He specifically celebrated the officers of the NCS that achieved it.
Wetkas also lauded the  Comptroller General for the letter of commendation in appreciation of the six customs officers who refused to bow to pressure and inducement from the owners of the illicit drugs.
He promised continued collaboration between the EFCC, NCS and sister agencies.
 According to him, the era of working without collaboration is gone as the agencies now work closer
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