Thousands of uncleared imported vehicles in Lagos State may be auctioned by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), if the owners fail to comply with the newly introduced Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) valuation policy.
While NCS Area Comptroller of Ports Terminal Multiservices Limited (PTML), Festus Oyedele Okun, put the number of the vehicles manufactured before 2013 at 7,000, an importer, who declined to be named, said he believed that they are over 10,000 in the two ports in Apapa and bonded terminals in the state.
“We have about 7,000 vehicles at the ports. They are mainly vehicles manufactured before 2013,’’ Okun said.
NCS Public Relations Officer (PRO), Tin-Can Island Port, Uche Ejesieme, told The Nation that the vehicles would be moved from the ports and bonded terminals to the government warehouse in Ikorodu for auctioning, if their importers fail to pay the right duties as required by the VIN after 90 days.
He explained that the movement of the vehicles will begin once the terminal operators generate Uncleared Cargo Lists (UCL) to enable the NCS to declare the overtime cargoes.
Ejesieme explained that the service needed space inside the ports to facilitate legitimate business.
His words: “So many factors are responsible for the huge number of vehicles inside the ports. It is not just about the VIN. Some of the importers may be having issues with their banks and others may be having domestic challenges. But our prayer is that they should get the money to come and clear their vehicles.
“Our major assignment is trade facilitation. We need the space inside the port to transact legitimate business. The terminal operators are yet to give us the uncleared cargo lists to tell you the exact number of vehicles inside the port but they are many.
“We hope the owners will come and clear them before they would be declared as overtime cargoes. Once we do that, the vehicles will be moved to the designated terminal in Ikorodu where they will be auctioned to members of the public when the government decides.”
The importer, who declined to have his name in print, lamented that they were being run out of business as their vehicles are trapped in the ports and terminals due high cost of clearing them.
“The VIN policy is harsh. The cost of clearing vehicles is outrageous. I believe we have over 10,000 vehicles caught up by the VIN valuation stuff,” he said.
Two other importers – Saheed Adebiyi and Friday Felix – who frowned at the plan, asked the government to review the policy or give them chance to be the first set of bidders.
Adebiyi said: “We have the majority of the cars. If it is the decision of the government to auction them, we pray the service (NCS) should give us the offer of the first refusal before selling them to the public.”
Felix also argued that if the government decides to declare their vehicles as overtime cargoes based on the number of days, weeks and months it has stayed in the ports, importers must be given the opportunity to bid for them.
He said: “Majority of us are looking for funds to clear our vehicles in the port because the amount we have to pay based on VIN is outrageous.
“A vehicle that we had budgeted between N300,000 and N500,000 to clear now requires about N1 million and above.
“The duty on each of the vehicles we have in the port has skyrocketed and that is what is affecting the majority of us.”
Another, Segun Ogungbe, urged President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to address the complaints of importers.
He said the purpose of VIN has been defeated.
His words: “We are seriously concerned about what is happening in our industry. In the last month, our members have been unable to clear vehicles from the ports as a result of the implementation of VIN by the NCS. It is negatively affecting our business.
“The least amount you can pay as duty on any vehicle regardless of its age now is N1million. It is unfortunate that in Nigeria because nobody cries out, importers are left to feel the pains.”
The Nation had reported last week the Federal Government was losing huge revenue as importers had resorted to shipping their vehicles to neighbouring countries, especially the Benin Republic as a result of VIN.