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Contravention of import duty: NAGAFF seeks equal treatment for all goods

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By Godwin Oritse

The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, has asked for amnesty on goods detained or subject to detention over import duty defaults.

In a letter to the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Col. Hameed Ali, founder of NAGAFF, Mr Boniface Aniebonam, said that the amnesty that was granted to automobiles should be extended to other goods.

The Customs, in a directive with reference number, HQ/005/2019, and dated 15th October 2019, said that all vehicles detained or subject to detention should be allowed to pay correct and complete Customs duty and penalty while other goods would be subjected to the full application of the provisions of Section 167 of the CEMA Cap C45 LFN 2004 i.e. outright seizure.

Part of the letter by NAGAFF reads: “While commending the CGC (Comptroller General of Customs) and his management for the amnesty granted the first category of defaulters, a move which NAGAFF described as further promoting international trade, the umbrella body of all Freight Forwarders in Nigeria, submits that applying the provisions of Section 167 of CEMA to others could amount to an anti-trade action, with dire consequences on the businesses of the affected people and ripple effect on the economy of the country.

“The most important thing is that they are traded goods which were caught up by fiscal policies of the Government in favour of local manufacture.

“NAGAFF, therefore, urged the CGC to further consult with the Minister of Finance to grant other categories the same amnesty of the light penalty of paying the correct and complete Customs duty with 25% penalty surcharge other than the standard or normal N600,000 in default.”

Furthermore, the association made a plea to the CGC, as part of the waiver/amnesty, to give those caught in the other categories the “right of first refusal” which would afford them the opportunity to apply for relief to claim their traded goods that fell into this category of seizures.

“NAGAFF is not oblivious of the fact that the government needs all the funds it can harness to be able to deliver on its infrastructural mandate; It is in this regard that we encourage Government to extend her amnesty to other categories of import that may have breached the law other than goods falling under absolute prohibition.

“The Association is fully convinced that the action of Government in this regards is for the benefit of the greater number of the people and the economy. Towards this end, NAGAFF is calling on all stakeholders to be patriotic in all their doings, as we believe that the Government will not set out to, intentionally, visit her people with hardship.

“It is for this reason, that the Association has thrown its weight behind the closure of the land borders to check different forms of criminal activities at the entry points of Nigeria. To us at NAGAFF, there is no any trade agreement or international treaty that forbids a country from blocking unauthorized goods or services and persons from entering its domain, especially when such is hurting the economy and security of its people. NAGAFF supports any legal and legitimate measure taken by the government and the Nigeria Customs Service to shut down the borders against impunity or illegal trade.

“And for the avoidance of doubts, it’s alleged that a neighbouring country with less than 12 million populations is the 5th largest importer of rice, used cars and used clothing in the world.

“Regrettably these unwholesome products well over 98.2 per cent of it find its way into Nigeria through smuggling without any payment of Customs duty etc.  Sadly enough that happens at a point they have collected their dues and taxes.  Indeed the whole of these are merely adding zero value to the Nigeria economy.

“Accordingly we urge Nigerians to exercise patience and to make a necessary sacrifice while the Government addresses the situation for the good of our country.

“NAGAFF, therefore, calls on neighbouring countries to be responsible neighbours by not allowing their territories to be used for anything against the interest of Nigeria. They should also respect our laws and regulations concerning trade. It advised the Nigerian Government,

“While engaging our neighbours with regards to the free passage of goods and services in line with ECOWAS protocols, the government should ensure that all imports into Nigeria, except baggage transactions, are containerised. To the best of our knowledge, no law is against carriage of goods in containers through the approved land borders. However, it is also important that we examine our system internally, especially our policies on trade. For this reason, there is a need for us as a country to entrench good governance and also empower our institutional arrangements for optimal performance. This is because on the body should expect our neighbours to protect our territorial boundaries for us.  If we do not do the needful, it shall imply that the implementation of our fiscal policies may be predicated on the closure of our borders.

Government, at all times, needs to be on top of every situation, and be proactive to be able to detect the antics of those who may want to use their closeness to the corridors of power to feather their own nests, to the detriment of the greater number of Nigerians.

“The on-going move by some foreign companies and their Nigerian partners to get the government to concession the revenue functions of the NCS to them may be in bad faith and antithetical to National development.

“From available records before us, their main target is the one per cent CISS commission. They have nothing to offer this great country.  It is our belief and informed position that the NCS has enough trained personnel to serve the interest of Nigeria in our frontlines on trade matters and secured thereto.

“Our hope shall be that officers and men of the Service should become more diligent in their statutory duty especially on matters of proper

“Customs examination at the Customs ports and approved border stations. Customs modernization must not be an endless endeavour for the reasons that food should be provided for the boys.

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