Apparently unable to pay requisite duties, importers have abandoned over 6,000 vehicles worth over N10 billion shipped in through Lagos ports, investigation has revealed.
Some of the importers delayed payment until the vehicles were declared overtime cargoes. Their thinking, he said, is that such vehicles will be sold to them later at very cheap rate through auction.
The vehicles, imported through Apapa and Tin-Can Island ports, were abandoned because of the owners’ inability to pay the Customs Duty within the stipulated period.
The Duty Paid Value (DPV) of about 1,000 of the vehicles, Customs sources said, is up to N4 billion.
The market value of each of the vehicles is between N4 million and N4.5 million.
A source close to the Federal Ministry of Finance said instead of the importers looking for ways to pay the duties and levies, they resorted to bribing some Customs officers. They also sought ways to ‘fly’ the vehicles out of the ports through “unscrupulous agents.”
Over 3,000 of the vehicles, it was learnt, have been moved to some bonded terminals. Some are still at both terminals contributing to the ports congestion.
But the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) had since eradicated the old system of auctioning seized vehicles and goods. It has yet to bring the vehicles up on its e-platform for auctioning.
An official of one of the bonded terminals where about 1,500 of the vehicles are, said some importers abandoned some of the vehicles declared as overtime cargoes when they realised that they have to pay 70 per cent duty and levies to clear them.
One of the importers, Mr. Samson Benjamin said: “As importers, part of our efforts was to ensure that we patronise Nigerian ports and don’t divert our cargoes to the ports of neighbouring countries, but rather than this gesture being recognised and compensated, the Federal Government through the NCS is busy breathing down on our necks, asking us to pay 70 per cent duty and 70 per cent levy on every brand new vehicles imported into the country.
“Ditto used vehicles. We have to pay 35 per cent duty and 35 per cent levy. When you calculate all the amount involved, you will understand the reason why people abandoned their vehicles.
“We have invested heavily on each of the vehicles abandoned at the ports. We ought to be encouraged. Even some of those the government is buying vehicles from find ways of bringing them out of the ports without paying the appropriate duty so that they can break even.
A senior Customs officer at the ports, said the NCS’ position on duty collection had not changed.
The Customs, he said, would collect the duty on the vehicles, adding that the importers would be sanctioned by declaring their vehicles as overtime cargoes and auctioning them.
“We are committed to the recovery of the duty payable on every imported vehicle. We have the government’s backing on this and the management has no reason whatsoever to shirk its responsibility in this regard,” the source said.