Destination Inspection takeover – it seems that all is not well. A stand-off between officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and members of the freight forwarding community is festering over trade facilitation issues. The long association between officials of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and big time freight forwarders, including association leaders may have gone sour. THISDAY checks at the ports revealed that most leaders of freight forwarding associations are on the warpath with the Customs. The agents are aggrieved over what they described as high handedness on the implementation of trade policies by the Customs. They alleged that the Customs has in a bid to meet revenue targets embarked on measures that will force most traders who are mainly their clients out of business.
It is lead to believe that made some leaders of customs agents associations work against the Customs Service concerning the take-over of Destination Inspection from agencies handling the project. The Federal Government had extended the contracts of the Destination Inspection Agents (DIAs) by six months at a time that the Customs had prepared to take over the scheme. Customs had trained about 2000 officers for the scheme. The Service, it was gathered had also planned to inherit the scanning machines from the DIAs before the contract was extended. Indications are that the contracts may be further extended by more than one year at the expiration of six months. Since the extension was announced, many leaders of customs agents have not come out openly to condemn it.
Bone of Contention – When the NCS failed to introduce duty benchmark at the ports last year, the relationship between the it and freight forwarders has changed.Customs issues Debit Note (DN) to recover what is lost due in terms of under-valuation, this has often been abused as importers and their customs agents negotiate what to pay with some of the valuation officers responsible for this. So, the management of the Customs believed that the only way to address this problem was a duty benchmark which saves the importer. The idea of the benchmark was to check revenue losses as a result of under-valuation of goods coming into the country. However, the benchmark arrangement was dropped on the order of the Presidency. Since then, the Service has adopted other means to ensure that no revenue is lost, a development that has angered the clearing agents.
Duty Targets – With a revenue target of N1trillion last year, the Customs had worked hard to ensure that it meets its revenue target. The Service realised about N800bn. Freight forwarders are bitter that so many containers have been abandoned by their owners at the ports due to high-handedness by the Customs in terms of outrageous DNs on the goods. A member of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) told THISDAY that the amount being issued as DN is such that many importers have been unable to pay. A top official of NAGAFF who did not want to be quoted said that it appears there is a grand plan by some officials of customs to frustrate some importers out of business by issuing outrageous DNs. “In some cases, the DN is such that the importer will be at total loss after clearing the goods. We have appealed to the management of the customs about this thing, but their officers have failed to come down on the value placed on these goods. Source: This Day (Nigeria)
This is probably going to be the challenge in any jurisdiction where Customs attempts to regain its mandate over the inspection of goods directly, rather than through the use of 3rd party entities. That being said, the use of DNs as described by ThisDay seems somewhat discordant with the WTO Valuation Agreement.