Few days after clearing agents operating at Clarion terminal under the Tin Can Island Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) protested against the high handedness of officers at the terminal, agents operating at Tin Can Port yesterday raised fresh alarm over planned introduction of a new valuation system called benchmark value on all general cargoes coming into the country through the command.
The new benchmark seeks to impose N600,000 minimal duty on all twenty foot containers and N1.2million on all forty foot containers.
While expressing their apprehension at the Tin Can Port on Wednesday, a clearing agent, Chukwuma Onyekachi told LEADERSHIP that the Customs Area Controller, Mr. Musa Abdullahi Baba is introducing the benchmark in contravention of the Customs Valuation Act and the Transaction Value principles therein.
The clearing agent knocked the customs for always coming up with exploitative policies when the year is coming to an end in order to meet it’s revenue target.
Onyekachi who stated further that agents have threatened to divert all cargoes from Tin Can Island Port, even as he assured that other far reaching steps would also be taken to protest the introduction.
Also speaking, a top executive members of the Association of Nigerian Liscenced Customs Agents (ANLCA), Tin Can chapter said the benchmark value means additional N600,000 and N1.2million on 20ft and 40ft container respectively.
The chapter executive who craved anonymity said, “The Benchmark Value means that all cargoes coming in would be made to pay 600,000 on twenty foot containers and N1.2million on forty foot containers not minding the port of origin, quality and classification of the goods inside the container.”
He alleged that already, the Customs Area Controller has punished some Assistant Controllers under him, for failing to apply the benchmark on some cargoes that have already exited the terminal.
“The controller has said that the Assistant controllers are the ones that would use their own money to pay the difference. What this benchmark means is that officers can now begin to use their discretion and jerk up value on imports.”
When contacted, Public Relations Officer of the Tin Can Island Customs, Mr. Uche Ejesieme confirmed the development.
He however said that the introduction of the said fees is not a ‘benchmark’ per say, but he described it as a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) which the CAC introduced in order to block all revenue leakages and underpayments
Speaking he said, “The issue is actually a misconception, what the controller is saying and has repeatedly said, depending on the kind of cargo, don’t forget that duties raised from zero percent to twenty percent to thirty five percent, but in order for us to strike a balance and guide against unscrupulous under valuation and underpayment by stakeholders, what we are saying is that the least minimal that you can pay on a twenty foot container is that amount, we don’t call it benchmarking, it is not a benchmark but a standard.”
Uche argues that “Some twenty foot containers can pay up to N20million depending on the consignment, but what we are saying is that considering the freight, CIF and other valuables, we pegged it that ideally, a twenty foot container is not supposed to pay less than that amount”
“There are some twenty foot containers that can even pay up to forty million depending on the cargo. It’s actually an SOP but people are misunderstanding it. There is no way that a twenty foot container would pay less than N600,000 with all the CIF payable multiplied by the exchange rate.” he said
Ejesieme assured that the command is planning to meet with clearing agents and importers and re-sensitize them during an enlarged meeting of stakeholders which will come up soon.
While reacting to allegations that the CAC punished some Assistant Controllers for releasing cargoes without following the laid down benchmark, he said that any cargo that has exited the port can still be revisited, and that the appropriate agency that can do this is the post clearance audit.