Months after the Nigeria Customs Service commenced the implementation of the Vehicle Identification Number for clearing of imported vehicles, clearing agents operating at the nation’s seaports have disclosed that Mercedes Benz, BMW and Chevrolet cars, among others, have yet to be captured on the platform.
The agents, who spoke exclusively with our source in Lagos, said the platform captured mostly Japanese and American cars.
They lamented that to clear the vehicles from Europe and the United States, agents had to meet with the Customs to get the valuation.
A clearing agent, Toochukwu Nwaigbo, said the introduction of the policy had made cars to be very expensive in Nigeria.
“There are so many issues with the VIN valuation. European cars like Mercedes Benz and BMW, as well as America’s Chevrolet, among others, are not captured on the app. When you bring such cars, you have to go to the Customs to get the valuation yourself. But when you bring Japanese cars like Toyota and Honda, among others, they are easily captured. This has made the cost of cars very expensive. A car you can easily get for say N1m is now well above N3m. So, that is the challenge we are facing now,” he said.
The acting National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, Kayode Farinto, said the NCS was imposing arbitrary charges on the imported vehicles.
He added that it was a deliberate attempt to circumvent the government’s intention.
“Some of the vehicles like the Mercedes Benz, BMW and Chevrolet are not captured on the VIN platform; they are just giving arbitrary values and I think it is a deliberate attempt to sabotage the government,” Farinto stated.
He noted that a vehicle that cost N1.7m to clear before now would require N2.9m for the same purpose.
“The Customs usually say they are working on it; so, we have to give them time to work on it. If they don’t come out with anything, we will now know that it is a deliberate attempt to sabotage the system,” he added.
When asked if there is any possibility of a strike to ensure that the right thing would be done, he said, “We are not talking about strike; there are better ways to handle this; if we embark on a strike, nothing may come out of it. It is not as if they don’t handle Mercedes Benz when you bring it in, but they will not tell you that it is not a standard VIN, so you have to pay extra. I have a Mercedes Benz GL450 2009 model that I am clearing now, the total duty is about N2.9m. Before now, it was not up to that amount; it used to cost N1.7m at the maximum.”
In his response, the National Public Relations Officer, NCS, Timi Bomodi, said, “You need to first of all ask what age is the vehicle they are bringing in. For instance, a 2009 car is not supposed to come into the country; so long as it they are above the age limit, they are not supposed to come in. It’s like a thief complaining that the burglar proofs these days are strong.
“The emphasis cannot be on the model; it has to be on the year first; you have to find out if they are supposed to come in at all. If they fall out of the age that is legally required, there is no need. The message is that they are all standard production items; they all carry the same standard identity number.”
Bomodi, however, said there was a procedure to check if a vehicle had a standard VIN or not.
“There is a procedure for processing vehicles with non-standard VIN numbers. So, what is the complaint? The complaint that it takes longer and it is more expensive is not true. You don’t have to see a vehicle to know if the VIN is standard or not, because you have the bill of laden, which has the VIN number. You don’t have to wait till the vessel arrives before you know if the vehicle has a standard VIN or not,” he added.