The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has revealed that Nigeria is currently losing billions of revenue to operators of Free Trade Zones in the country due to special status granted the operational areas within these zones.
Speaking at the weekend during the conclusion of the Comptroller General of Customs Conference in Lagos, the Comptroller General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi who spoke through the Deputy Comptroller General (DCG) Incharge of Excise, Free Trade Zone and Industrial Incentives, Jack Ajoku, said he has set a timeline of March 31, 2024 to meet with the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment (FMT&I) and the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) to resolve this issue
Deputy Comptroller General (DCG) Jack Ajoku made the observation of duty evasion, alleging that the operators take advantage of the special status granted their operational areas to bring in luxury vehicles and yachts without paying a dime to government.
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According to the Customs CG, “Such luxurious cars like latest Toyota Land Cruisers, other high end vehicles and yachts are not exempted from duty payment and are not categorised as operational vehicles.”
He added that operational cars with the free zone special numbers should be used within their designated areas, not in town or other parts of the country considered to be Customs zone where the NCS is empowered to carry out it’s anti smuggling and duty collection responsibilities.
The Customs Boss reminded Free Trade Zone operators that their areas are for raw materials processing, transfer of skills and generation of foreign exchange to promote economic development. He added that it was wrong for operators of Free Trade Zones to take their dutiable products into Customs zone for sale without going through the NCS for excise duty payments.
In a related development, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi also at the weekend held a roundtable interactive session with maritime and excise stakeholders to devise a lasting solution to issues facing clearance processes in ports across the Country.
The meeting, which also held on the sideline of the just concluded CGC’s Conference, was attended by senior serving and retired Customs Officers, Terminal Operators, Freight Forwarders, Licensed Customs Agents, and Representatives of Excise Stakeholders, among others.
CGC Adewale Adeniyi clarified that concerns such as multiple alerts, frequent downtime of CPC, numerous checkpoints, and difficulty accessing ports, among others, have been established in previous meetings as the next phase is to set time-bound solutions.
In his words, “Issues have been openly discussed. The main ones facing cargo clearance will be addressed by collaborating with key stakeholders on building a framework for the way forward to these outlined hurdles.”
“There will be a commitment to the creation and implementation of new policies that are in line with decisions that are taken today, and these approaches will be timebound to ensure we achieve the wanted objective soon,” he said.
A panel was set up encompassing representatives of stakeholders and the Nigeria Customs Service to address the concerns hindering effective port operations and achieve cumulative recommendations, which will be carried out by 1st quarter of 2024.
Comptroller Dera Nnadi, who was part of the panelists, encouraged port users and stakeholders to optimize weekend operations; he also encouraged the use of barge without making it a commercial process.
Stakeholders appreciated the CGC for bringing back the Services’ Annual Conference while expressing readiness to always work with Customs.
The President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Tochukwu Ezeisi, said, for the first time in years, freight forwarders are happy because “our issues are being discussed and decisions are taken immediately.”
“CGC Adewale has shown seriousness in achieving his three-point agenda by bringing back this Conference, which is an avenue to listen to stakeholders, and we are ready to always work with the Service,” he added.
Alhaji Kazeem Isa Adua, the Deputy President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), stated, “The CGC has done well in organizing this Conference and with the positive body language seen today. We should expect smooth and optimized clearance process soon”.