By Obiejesi Kingsley
Despite a resolution of the Nigerian Senate that the Nigerian Customs Service suspend its planned enforcement of car duty payments, the service has said it is going ahead.
The Senate on Tuesday ordered the Customs to halt the auto duty payment policy, and summoned representatives of the Service to appear before it to throw more light on the issue.
But the service on Wednesday said it had made some adjustments to the policy and believed the senate would give its endorsement, especially after the Comptroller General meets the lawmakers to explained the details.
The proposed enforcement of the policy is scheduled to kick-off after the one-month grace period of March 13 to April 12.
Acting Public Relations Officer of the Customs Service, Joseph Attah, explained some of the changes to the policy while addressing a press conference at the Customs headquarters in Abuja on Wednesday.
He explained that the point of payments for vehicles whose duty have not been paid will now be at the nearest Customs Area Command, with the exception of Lagos and Port Harcourt.
Before now, the NCS had announced that payment could only be made at Customs zonal offices nationwide, but Attah said that there was need to make the payment easier for Nigerians, hence the decision to create more payment points.
Residents in Lagos, however, will have to make their payments at Zone A headquarters, Yaba and the Federal Operations Unit Zone A, Ikeja, while Port Harcourt residents should visit the Zone C headquarters, Nigeria Ports Authority.
Another major adjustment to the vehicle duty payment policy is the introduction of a 60 percent rebate for vehicles imported into the country from 2015 downwards, though “the rebate applies only within the grace period.”
He explained that decision to grant a grace period for auto duty payment was a result of consultations with the leadership of the Association of Motor Dealers of Nigeria, AMDON, “who pleaded for a window to pay duty on all uncustomed vehicles within the country before the ban on vehicle importation through land borders.”
The Customs PRO urged Nigerians to be careful when purchasing their cars to ascertain that the duty for the car has been paid before they go ahead and buy.
He added that even if it is a third party purchase, the buyer should go to the nearest customs area command to authenticate the duty payment before purchasing the vehicle, in order to avoid the embarrassment that could accompany the seizure of such cars by Customs officials.
Attah also revealed that the Nigeria Customs is collaborating with other sister law enforcement agencies to come up with Vehicle Identification Number, VIN.
The VIN project “is another bold step by the Service to boost revenue and enhance national security,” the Customs PRO explained.
“The benefit of this collaboration is that those who do not pay duty ontheir vehicles will not be able to obtain licence and register them in Nigeria.
“We believe that when all vehicles are properly registered and owners’identities tied to them, national security will be enhanced.
Attah assured that the NCS “will intensify its statutory functions of anti-smuggling operation with a view to seizing and prosecuting owners of uncustomed vehicles and goods.”
Also speaking during the press conference, the National President of the Association of Motor Dealers of Nigeria, AMDON, Ajibola Adedoyin, said that the association is collaborating with the customs to put in place measures that would ensure payment of duty by importers.
He added that vehicles are not luxuries but necessities and so the partnership between AMDON and the Customs Service is to see how both parties can arrive at a win-win situation.
Adedoyin said that the association has a platform in place already which is being finalized to enable customers easily ascertain whether the vehicle they are about to purchase has been legally cleared by the Customs.
“Even after duties are paid on every car, there will be something that will be issued to you (the customer) that you can check on your own and be sure of what you are buying.
“That will make it difficult for people to even patronize car smugglers,” he said.
Adedoyin expressed optimism that if the Auto Duty Policy needs to be reviewed along the line of its enforcement, that the Customs will not hesitate to do so, as according to him, “we have a listening Comptroller General.”