Importers, agents lose N20m in eight days as NCS’ VIN platform crashes

•Customs forces importers to use 846 code for non-standard chassis

Importers and agents have lamented losing about N20 million to demurrage as the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) valuation platform of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) at the two major vehicle importing ports in Lagos, Tin Can Island Port and the PTML Port, has been down for eight days with situation yet to be addressed.

As of yesterday, scores of freight forwarders and customs agents have been unable to capture vehicles since last week after the collapse of the VIN platform last Wednesday.

The Guardian learnt that vessels laden with vehicle containers that berthed on Sunday at Tin Can port are stranded, as there is no space to offload, especially as vehicles are yet to be cleared from the ports.

The Public Relations Officer, Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN), Taiwo Fatomilola, said for eight day, the VIN platform has been down, while demurrage has accrued to about N20 million.

“Tin can and Grimaldi, nothing has been working since last Wednesday till today. The amount of vehicles that are supposed to leave the ports are still stacked there and ships are coming in. A ship berthed at Tin can port on Sunday and nothing has been done to offload the vehicles from the ship,” he said.

He said Customs is forcing importers to use the 846 code for non-standard vehicles, which has human interference, as officers part away with huge amounts of money.

“When we go for 846, we will be at the mercy of customs who hike the price of the value. The year is ending and the money realised as revenue by the Customs is far from the target given to them, so they are using 846 to meet up,” he said.

A customs agent, Timothy Adebowale lamented that the Standard VIN chassis of customs is now rejecting vehicles and referring them back to the 846 code, which is meant for non-standard VIN.

Adebowale alleged that the non-standard VIN gives room for manipulation from customs officers and that it defeats the very essence of creating the VIN platform.

He said demurrages have been piling up because vehicles cannot be cleared.

“Since last Wednesday, we have been unable to capture vehicles on the standard VIN, every time we attempt to do that, the system is directing us back to the 846, which is for non-standard VIN, which creates room for extortion and negotiations with customs officers.

“As I am speaking with you now, demurrages are piling up because more vessels are coming into the port and discharging vehicles but we cannot clear them out of the port.

“We have complained to the customs, they are aware of this challenge since last week, but they have no concrete solutions or reply to give to us.”

“I have vehicles of 2014 and 2015 that are within the years and age limit recommended by the law, yet the system is directing us back to nonstandard VIN. This challenge is happening at all the ports that handle vehicles,” he said.

The acting President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Dr. Kayode Farinto had also lamented irregularities in the operations of the customs VIN platform.

Farinto lamented that customs officials are manipulating the nonstandard VIN, which is frustrating operations at the port.

He also raised an alarm that customs was manipulating the age limit policy on imported vehicles, adding that all vehicles are now made to pay a value of year 2013, even though the law allows for a 2011 vehicle to be imported.

“The challenge is that customs are not being sincere, we have the standard chassis and the non standard chassis. For the standard chassis, people have cued in, but for the non standard chassis, it is being manipulated, and customs officers are encouraging people to manipulate it.

“The unfortunate thing is that the import policy of the federal government on imported vehicles is 12 years age limit, but if you look at the Nigeria Customs Service system and data, the minimum value for vehicles you can see is 2013, what happened to vehicles of 2011?

“So, if you have a vehicle of 2011, you would be forced to get a value of 2013, who suffers it? These are the things that discourage the importers.

Meanwhile our neighboring port of Cotonou is bringing down their rates on a daily basis and ships coming with vehicles are diverted there,” he added.

 

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