by Dolapo Adelana
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Sunday in Abuja expressed its opposition to the new directive on customs duty on old vehicles by the Nigeria Customs Service.
NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, stated this in a letter to the Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali, saying the directive was not realistic.
He said that the attention of the labour union had been drawn to a publication signed by Mr Joseph Attah, acting Public Relations Officer on behalf of the Comptroller-General.
Wabba said the publication had directed motor dealers and private owners of vehicles “whose customs duty has not been paid to do so” between Monday, March 13 and Wednesday, April 12.
He said that the publication reads: “There will be an aggressive anti-smuggling operation to seize as well as prosecute owners of such smuggled vehicles after the deadline of Wednesday, April 12, 2017.”
Reacting to the publication Wabba said, “We are opposed to this new policy because it will create unimaginable chaos and suffering for innocent end-users of vehicles.
“It is self-serving and will, in the end, enrich unscrupulous customs personnel who contributed, in no small measure, to the present situation through act of commission or omission and will amount to rewarding their complicity.
“It is common knowledge that duties on imported vehicles are payable at the points of entry.
“Subjecting end-users of vehicles to this kind of trauma, most of who have no hand in the importation of their vehicles, is unfair and unacceptable.
“There is no information on the vehicles to be excluded from this exercise.
“This presupposes that the owner of a Morris Minor or a Peugeot 404 brought into this country in the 70’s is similarly affected.’’
Wabba urged the service to shelve the policy.
“Lessons ought to have been learnt from the violent outcome of the brutal raids of Ota market, the ambushing and extorting of money from vehicle-owners on the highway at yuletide.
“Porous borders, as customs claims, are no justification for these actions or proposed policy action.
“Accordingly, in place of this unpopular policy which has received condemnation from all sectors of the economy, the Nigeria customs service should devise a coherent response that will deal with these challenges.
“We believe such a response should focus on capacity building, modernising operations, using technology and eliminating massive corruption in the system.”
He added, “As part of the civic and commercial responsibilities of both corporate and non-corporate citizenry, they are expected to pay appropriate duties on their vehicles as stipulated by law.
“Sadly, out of irresponsibility or sheer criminality, some devise ways to evade this responsibility; for instance, some take measures as desperate as `flying’ their vehicles into the country, thus denying government the needed revenue.
“We strongly hold the view that those who break the law or seek to break the law should be sanctioned to serve as a deterrent to others.
“The need to enforce tax laws in our country is all the more necessary because of social justice and dwindling revenue sources.
“Our support for the Nigeria customs service is not in doubt; if anything, the service should be encouraged to do its work well,” he said.
Wabba urged the comptroller-general of customs to have a rethink on the directive.