•Fresh 15% levy on used cars insensitive to Nigerians –Farinto, ANLCA president
Dr Kayode Farinto is the President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and the Managing Director of Wealthy Honey Investment Limited. In this interview with PAUL OGBUOKIRI, he affirms Customs Brokers’ rejection of the recent 15 per cent National Automotive Council (NAC) levy introduced by the Federal Government and other issues. Excerpts
There has been this complains by some freight forwarders that their jobs are being taken over by foreigners; has ANLCA taken notice of this development?
A major problem facing the industry has been a source of worry to the leadership of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents. I can tell you that as today, over 90 per cent of freight forwarding jobs in Nigeria have been taken over by foreigners.
Egyptians, Lebanese and Chinese are taking over the freight forwarding industry in Nigeria, and the Nigeria Customs Service is giving these nationals preference over Nigerians. We had drafted a bill through our legal adviser on the need to indigenise Nigeria Customs Service brokerage because we believe that the nucleus of freight forwarding should be left to Nigerians.
Foreigners have taken over 90 per cent of our jobs by practising door-to-door services or allowing non-functional Nigerians to be directors in their companies.
We have got lawyers and put up a bill on the need to indigenise Customs’ brokerage, which is a nucleus of freight forwarding, to be left for Nigerians alone. The issue of foreigners taking over clearing jobs is a keg of gunpowder and if nothing is done about it, we will all have ourselves to blame. We are, however, setting up a committee which will give a proper guideline.
Importers are not comfortable with the recently introduced 15 per cent National Automotive Council levy on imported vehicles because they believe that it will add to the cost of doing business in the Nigerian ports. Are your members on the same page with them?
The Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) has directed the Registrar of the Council to engage the Federal Ministry of Finance on the issue.
The mandate given to the Registrar was to ensure the suspension of the NAC levy. The 15 per cent National Automotive Council (NAC) levy will be pursued vigorously immediately and we will engage the National Assembly on the insensitivity of the present government to the plight of the masses to have introduced the levy at this period when the economy is comatose. We will also ensure that the Federal Ministry of Finance is dragged before the peoples representatives on this matter. The Acts No 6 of 2014 is very explicit on the introduction of NAC levy on fully-built imported vehicles. We woke up to see that the Federal Government had migrated to the Economic Community of West African States Tariff, which states that the duty for raw materials should be 5 per cent; semi-finished products, 10 per cent, while used vehicles should attract 20 per cent. We are not unaware of the provision, which empowers member nations to introduce Import Adjustment Tax but this ought to be for commodities, products manufactured locally.
This tax is meant to protect local manufacturers. The question, which is yet to be answered, is whether the Nigerian government is manufacturing used vehicles locally. The effect of this levy is unprecedented as the cost of clearing of used vehicles has skyrocketed and its spiral effect on imported used vehicles will begin to manifest in the next quarter of 2022.
The VIN valuation policy is up and running. Are you satisfied with its implementation so far?
The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is selective in nature, as it works well with Standard Chasis Vehicles while not working well with Non-Standard Chasis Vehicles. Some of the classes of Mercedes Benz vehicles have not been captured by the Customs VIN Valuation policy. It’s been a month since Customs introduced the VIN Valuation policy for imported vehicles. We all expected that within 90 days if such a policy is working well or not, we will all know. Having analysed the VIN Valuation in the last one month, we want to commend our members for their perseverance. It has not been easy. It has been very rough adapting to its challenges.
The very first few weeks of the policy, everybody was confused, but after some adjustments, we adapted to it. While the VIN valuation policy has been effective on the standard Chasis vehicles, it has failed on the Non-Standard Chasis Vehicles.
I have released the agreed procedures on clearance of Standard Chassis Vehicles that fall within VIN Valuation and Non Standard Chassis Vehicles, salvage and accidented vehicles a few days ago.
We need to allow these new changes going by all we go through in the hands of Customs and various units to clear vehicles in the ports and even when you take your valuation, many alerts are put on our declarations and it takes the grace of God and difficult conditions to get them out of the ports.
As if to say that is not enough, you need to know the numbers of calls we receive from our members delivering these vehicles within and outside Lagos environment. Many Customs units will say your values are compromised, it must be jacked up and many of us are at their mercy pleading that DN should not be issued on already exited vehicles.
This and many more are what we believe the VIN valuation will eliminate. Many agents have been given forged and mutilated valuation papers by the third parties and are left to suffer the consequences of whatever happens.
We do not need all this to get our vehicles released and we promise to challenge any command that may want to use the office of monitoring to extort money from our members when this new process commences.
The 2023 election is around the corner. Is the association interested in the direction things will go?
We will mobilise our members to give over five millions votes in the maritime industry to the presidential candidate that will be explicit on how to assist the freight forwarding profession through the implementation of people’s welfare policies.
The inconsistency in government policies by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was an eye opener for members of the association. We won’t allow anyone to fool us like this outgoing government is doing. We are gradually losing our profession to foreign domination courtesy of a lack of law that will protect indigenous practitioners. We must, however, come together to achieve greatness. An injury to one should be an injury to all.
A chieftain of ANLCA was recently arrested by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency over alleged complicity in the importation of intercepted psychotropic drugs. Are you worried by this development?
We are really worried over this ugly development and we have directed our members to ensure importers sign Indemnity Form before any cargo will be cleared at the ports. We have over time urged our members to ensure that the indemnity form is signed before deciding to take up the consignment of any importer for clearance.
So, we want to use this medium to correct the erroneous impression going round that ANLCA chieftain is involved in the clearance of illicit drugs and psychotropic substances and also reiterate our efforts in the last few months to enlighten our members on the role to play, particularly during cargo clearance. We are collaborating with NDLEA.
It’s our responsibility. The arrested Customs Broker is a senior member of ANLCA and one of the chapters’ executives at PTML. He is involved in the clearing of a container said to contain three vehicles but unfortunately at the point of examination, lo and behold, some psychotropic substances were found in that container.
Let me say this, the arrested person is just a clearing agent. He is not the importer of the consignment and the consignment was not consigned in his name.
This issue is now being politicised. It is a national issue and we should have concern as regards the safety of our environment. In the last one year, the level of psychotropic substances has been on the increase. You will recall that when we had our first NEC meeting this year, we advised our members to start giving their importers an Indemnity Form.
At the second NEC meeting, we advised that members should protect themselves by making sure that the importer signs the Indemnity Form and go a step further by notorising it. So, if it is notorised, you would have been seen to have done due diligence even if the consignment contains illicit drugs. In such a situation, the agent will be on the side of the law.
What is your assessment of Nigeria Customs Service with regards to their role in enforcing government policies?
There is a lack of professionalism in the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and I can state categorically that we are not moving forward. The maritime sector is very stagnant and we are moving backward.
By now, at our level in this country, we are supposed to have moved more than this. It is very unfortunate that the government we have is not a listening government and that is why anybody does whatever he or she likes in the industry. It is very unfortunate!
If I have the privilege of meeting Mr. President today, I will tell him that the maritime industry is not moving forward. We should commend the importers that are still bringing in consignments through seaports because they are not protected and there is no enabling environment and ease of doing business in the nation’s maritime industry.
It is true that importation has reduced because government is not consistent with its policies and Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is not consistent with its policies and Customs does not even give information to the trading community. The first criteria of the World Bank Logistic Performance Index Rating is predictability. There is no predictability in our Customs operations.
Everything is zigzag! The Nigeria Customs Service refuses to carry stakeholders along and in line with World Customs Organisation 2013, which says you must collaborate with stakeholders. Customs does not collaborate with anybody. This bossy idea they are having is why they are not getting it right.
It is a matter of policy because when we entered into an agreement on the issue of ECOWAS, it was an agreement that every neighbouring or every member states now be using HScode that the duty of vehicles will be 20 per cent, the duty of semi finished product will be 10 per cent and raw materials will be 5 per cent. Meanwhile, that does not stop you from introducing what is called IAA something, which is on levy.