The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in its resolution on Tuesday, March 7, has passed a resolution directing the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS to put off its plan to collect duties on all vehicles in the country, including old ones and to penalise Nigerians who do not pay up within one month.
Recall that the Nigeria Customs had in a statement from its Acting Public Relations Officer, Joseph Atta, told owners of vehicles who did not pay Customs duty to do so between March 13 and April 12, threatening to impound vehicles without duty papers and to prosecute their owners.
The statement reads in part: “All persons in possession of such vehicles should take advantage of the grace period to pay appropriate dues on them, as there will be an aggressive anti -smuggling operation to seize as well as prosecute owners of such smuggled vehicles after the deadline of April 12.
“For the avoidance of doubt, all private car owners who are not sure of the authenticity of their vehicle’s Customs documents can also approach the zonal offices to verify with a view to complying with the provision of the law.’’
Sequel to the directive, Nigerian car owners on Monday March 5, called for a reversal of the decision by the NCS. Speaking in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the vehicle owners called on the Senate to review the new policy.
Some vehicle owners who spoke with a NAN correspondent said that evasion of duty on vehicles was caused by corrupt Customs officials at the land borders.
Victoria Onohwakpo, a businesswoman, said the decision of the Customs Service on payment of duty showed that the service was shifting its responsibility to Nigerians. Mrs. Onohwakpo said it was the responsibility of Customs to ensure that duties were paid on all the vehicles that came through the land borders.
She said since the Federal Government banned the importation of vehicles through the land borders, the new policy should start from 2017 and not on the old cars.
The Senate, however, resolved that Customs should suspend the move until its Comptroller-General, Hameed Ali, came before the house to explain the idea behind the collection of the old duties.
In a motion moved by the Deputy Senate Majority Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah and seconded by Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West), the Lawmakers described the new Customs policy as “a serious matter”. According to them, it would be a difficult task for people to start looking for zonal offices of areas where their cars were purchased several years before.
While Na’Allah pointed out that in cases where the cars were purchased directly from dealers, it was not fair to make people suffer for the mistakes of such dealers if the proper custom duties were not paid initially, Dino Melaye said it was impossible to import vehicles without clearance or “collaboration” of the Customs.
The Senate therefore, resolved that Customs should halt actions until the agency appears before its Committee on Customs. Senate President, Bukola Saraki maintained that it was the duty of the senate to ensure the welfare of Nigerians.
Senate President Bukola Saraki said it was the responsibility of the senate to ensure welfare of Nigerians.