– As Customs, Freight Forwarders Bickers over VIN Valuation Policy
By Innocent Orok
It seems the raging disagreement between the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and Freight Forwarders on the VIN valuation policy on imported vehicles into Nigeria is far from being over as key actors on both sides are trading blames that may not help neither the Nigerian economy nor the resolution of the VIN valuation crises.
Freight forwarders and Customs Brokers are currently protesting the outrageous VIN valuation policy allegedly being forced on them by the NCS, as such most imported vehicles are being abandoned at the seaports.
But reacting to the claim by the Vice President of Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Dr Kayode Farinto and other protesting Freight Forwarders that the VIN valuation system is Outrageous and lacks Predictability, Transparency, the National Public Relations Officer of the NCS, Deputy Comptroller Timi Bomodi absolved the Customs of any wrong doing including saying Stakeholders meeting was held across the country to sensitize all stakeholders on the VIN valuation policy. Hear him:
VIN VALUATION, THE UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTH
“A cursory review of online, print newspapers and journals focused on maritime related issues reveal certain curiosities among a few freight forwarding practitioners and clearing agents. In this peculiar group of individuals will be found those who demand the automation of Customs processes but still insist on human interference.
“They demand standardisation, but prefer randomized values. They demand simplification of trade processes but prefer a little complication here and there. For this lot the contradictions in their demands makes sense so long as it translates to the payment of the least tax to government. Their propensity to give advice but not to take it smacks of hypocrisy and should be called out by well meaning Nigerians.
“In recent times the concensus among clearing agents on the valuation of used vehicles appear to favour a harmonized value system that is consistent across all Customs platforms in Nigeria. They insisted that the same make, and model of cars should be made to pay the same amount of duty. These agents also demanded the discontinuation of the discounted value method which allowed for the subjective considerations of officers in the Customs Valuation Unit who rely mainly on the book value of vehicles discounted at a fixed rate over time.
“In 2022 their prayers have been answered. NCS introduced VIN- Valuation as a fully automated tool devoid of human interference, capable of aggregating values from countries of export, consistent in make and model of cars for the purpose of assessing duty. This system uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to pull together trade data representing a range of values consistent for each car make and model using the Vehicle Identity Number (VIN). It is totally devoid of human inputs by NCS officers, and enables easy and fast assessments necessary to process duty payments. Indeed time motion studies confirm a maximum of 6 hours between automated assessments and release of cars using VIN-Valuation.
“Before the introduction of this tool, town hall meetings were held across the country stating its benefits, one of the greatest being trade facilitation. Following the demands of agents for a simplified system which recognises standard values, NCS was confident that this innovation in its clearing process will satisfy the desires of agents clamouring for change. The resistance to VIN-
“Valuation therefore comes as a surprise seeing that it was deliberately designed to meet their demands. It also compels us to investigate further the intentions of those protesting its use. When our Valuation officers gave out ex-factory prices for duty assessment they were accused of collecting monetary inducements to give lower values. It will be interesting to know what these same agents/importers will accuse the machines of. Maybe this time it will be machine discrimination, or discrimination based on non digital considerations.
“The truth is that most of the individuals protesting the introduction of VIN-Valuation do not care about automation, simplification, harmonisation or even transparency in the system. They do not care about the wellbeing of the country or the industry they claim to represent. All they care about are the personal benefits accruable from milking the system. They want to pay as little import duty as possible and keep the chunk of the monies for themselves. These persons advocate chaos rather than order. They thrive in wheeling, dealing environments where the price of everything is negotiable.
“NCS under the able leadership of Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd) is poised to rewrite history by reinventing Customs operations in its entirety. The vision of this administration is to create environments conducive for facilitating trade that is consistent and predictable with little to non human interference. VIN-Valuation is only one in a series of innovations designed for this purpose. The earlier agents and importers come to terms with this reality the better it will be for everyone.
“NCS therefore urges well meaning Nigerians to embrace the electronic services that are being put at their disposal. Importers who have valid Tax Identity Numbers (TIN) can do self assessment and pay duty by themselves. We implore licensed Customs agents to also be honest in their declarations as it will go a long way in expediting the release of their goods out of Customs control.”
DC TIMI BOMODI
But in his swift reaction, National Vice President of ANLCA, Dr Kayode Farinto, fires back, claiming that the NCS is lying to Nigerians . Hear him:
Gentlemen of the Press
RE – VIN VALUATION: THE UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTH BY DC BOMODI, NIGERIANS DESERVE TO KNOW THE TRUTH.
” I read with consternation the submission of the National Public Relations Officer of Nigeria Customs Service and pity Nigeria ,asking myself ,at what point did we get it wrong in this part of the country.
“It is sheer hypocrisy to condemn the position of few Freight forwarders that exposed the level of non – professionalism in the management of the Nigeria Customs Service, but because anything goes in this part of the world, lies will always overtake truth, hence the whitemen will continue to look at us as a very backward race courtesy of our dark age and medieval behavior which is akin to pre human existence.
“First and foremost,every freight forwarder was tired of giving bribes,inhuman treatment by men of NCS on the road,whenever they take delivery of their vehicles and the fact that,there was no uniformity on duty payable on same categories,year of manufacture and even with same cubic capacities of vehicles. Hence we all clamour that something urgently needed to be done on this issue.
“Permit me to digress because I was frontally campaigning for this in the last few months and it will interest Nigerians to know that the Comptroller General of Customs immediately keyed into our demand and directed that a Committee of Stakeholders be set up (which must include the Customs brokers and Customs officers) to meet and look into how this can work in the interest of the Nation.
“However, some members of the Management team of NCS vowed that it will never happen due to the PECUNIARY GAINS that will elude them if this process is allowed to come to fruition. And they never allowed the Committee to be inaugurated, let alone be set up.I stand to be corrected because ,I remember that we wrote series of letters reminding them on the need to set up this Committee, but it was tactically avoided. Hence the recent happenings in the industry because ,up till now,we have it on good authority that only few analogue officers came up with values and data inputted in the VIN VALUATION and even forgot due to lack of knowledge to put into consideration that LEGAL NOTICE 30,which is a law that allows every used vehicle to enjoy rebate as per year of manufacture.and this rebate ranges from 10 to 50% reduction on duty payable.
“Furthermore,talking about Artificial Intelligence,the great question we need ask these crop of fake innovators is ,does Artificial intelligence provide data? The answer is NO.Artificial Intelligence (AI) broadly refers to any human like display by a machine or system.in Artificial Intelligence,basic forms,computers are PROGRAMME TO MIMIC human behavior using extensive DATA FROM PAST EXAMPLES OF SIMILAR BEHAVIOR.where does your own data emanated from?
We have unhindered access to World Customs Organization on the issue of data or Ex -factory prices which would have form part of consideration to make the VIN Valuation work.
“Finally,it will interest NIGERIANS TO KNOW THAT,for this new systems to work and be devoid of corruption,it must be design in such that once u pay whatever the system ‘s give,the release ought to be automated, but the designer of this system also deliberately,avoided this to still create room for physical contact and Chua Chua(Chua Chua ,is a language in the industry for settlement).
“We as patriotic Nigerians want this nation to move forward and are tired of being call names by people that are benefiting from our position hence, we insist that,the right thing must be done and condemn all act of attempting to give freight forwarders bad name.
Farinto Kayode Collins (Phd).
You be the judge.