Senate blames Customs for granting assembly plants zero duty on imported vehicles

The Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariffs on Wednesday blamed the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) for granting assembly plant owners zero duty on new imported vehicles.

Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Hope Uzodinma, said during its oversight visit to the customs in Tincan Island Port, Lagos that the practice had resulted in over N5 billion revenue leakages.

“The major vehicle import comes from Tincan Island. Government approved the automobile policy to encourage local assembly plants in the country.

“Apart from the Chinese branding in Nnewi, Anambra by Innoson Motors, 90 per cent of vehicle importers enjoying the status of assembly plants are traders.

“They bring in most of these new vehicles into Nigeria through Tincan Island in the name of Complete Knocked Down (CKD) parts.

“These vehicles are cleared by you, that is, the customs. And they are cleared at zero duty tariffs,’’ he said.

He noted that some shipping companies and authorities outside the country had confirmed that such vehicles were fully built vehicles.

“We want you to place on hold such containers, invite the owners to open them so that for once, we can confront those behind this illicit act,” Uzodinma.

He added that genuine vehicle importers, who were levied 35 per cent duty, were forced to import vehicles through Cotonou port.

The lawmaker said that the Lagos port was very important and critical to the nation’s economy as it concerned some of the fiscal policies of government.

He explained that these policies, which were meant to facilitate trade and stimulate the economy, had become “drain pipes” due to the illegal practices.

“This situation is greatly unacceptable to government,” Uzodinma said.

In his remarks, Customs Area Comptroller at the Port, Musa Abdullahi, said the port lacked basic infrastructure such as scanners, regular electricity, examination bays and warehouse facilities, among others.

He noted that the port had recorded continuous drop in revenue over the past two years.

According to him, the port collected N256 billion in 2016 which was below its N275 billion target, while it received N287 billion in 2017, lower than the N310 billion expected.

“About N51 billion was collected from January to February this year out of the target of N354 billion proposed,’’ he said.

Abdullahi said the port seized 108 containers of prohibited goods, drugs and vehicles in the past two years.

Contributing, a member of the committee, Sen. Ali Wakili, urged the area comptroller to block all leakages.

On his part, Sen. Omo Ovie-Agege, said it was the responsibility of the customs to determine what constituted CKD and not a function of the Automotive Council of Nigeria. (NAN)

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