Tokunbo car dealers have alleged extortion against customs officials at the ports, blaming this for a spike in the cost of imported cars.
The dealers said besides the official duties, Customs officials also charge extra fees without which cars are delayed and accrue demurrage in millions of naira.
Chief Executive Officer, Chidex Mobile Autos Limited, Chidiebere Okoro, lamented that car dealers were facing high hurdles from men of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
“These cars we normally clear with N300, 000, now cost N600, 000 (per unit). This is apart from the official duty and this affects sales of the car to the end-users.”
He said the consequence is that people no longer buy cars due to the high cost. “A car we are supposed to sell for N1.5 million, now, it sells for about N3 million.”
“If a car is cheap, you tend to sell faster than when it is expensive. This also affects the economy. The business is no longer moving like it ought to move. The money, which people are supposed to spend on other things, is now added to buy cars and the complaints are much,” he said.
Another dealer and Manager of Client Services, Inspired Cars, Iwayeye Olatunji, said: “There is no way one could ignore the corruption in Customs even when you try to do things the normal way, they will frustrate you such that you have no choice but to play by their rules.”
“Customs is frustrating the business with the clearing duration and other things. Also, when you ‘settle’ Customs, it still does not mean that the system would not frustrate you.
“The delay will lead to demurrage, which also contributes to the high cost of vehicles. If I am bringing in a Venza that does not have any dent, it can go for as high as $845 from the United States, then shipment and other things can cost about $1,200, then local shipment will cost around $300, which is about N4.8 million. You would use N1 million for clearing with about N100, 000 for miscellaneous, which is going to about N5.8 million. So, if you want to sell that car, you will sell it for about N6.5 million,” he explained.
Another car dealer, who is the Chief Executive Officer, Ifeseun and Associate, Ibukun Ifedayo, lamented that after paying the normal duty, the importer faces the challenge of where to offload the goods, which causes delay and attracts demurrage.
The dealer explained that for a car of 2011-model to date, an importer spends not less than N500, 000 to N800, 000 for clearing, after which N1.2 million is paid for movement of the container to the terminal with another N150, 000 paid to offload the container.
National President, African Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON), Frank Ogunojemite, said the Federal Government should be blamed because Customs work on government’s directives on revenue targets.
He said the Customs’ customer service is poor, while the multiple units of Customs made it difficult for the importer to survive in the business.
Reacting to the allegations, the Public Relations Officer at the Tin-Can Island Command of the NCS, Uche Ejieseme, told The Guardian via WhatsApp that all the Customs’ functions were guided by statutory provisions.
He said the Customs’ command was doing everything possible to support traders, noting that the Service is open to suggestions, ideas, comments, and even constructive criticisms that will enable Customs to serve Nigerians better without compromising statutory mandate.
Ejieseme enjoined stakeholders to come up with specific issues of outrageous value for analysis and prompt action, adding that as a business-friendly Command, the Customs Area Controller, Compt. Mba Musa is deeply committed to ensuring the facilitation of legitimate trade and has in some cases applied reward for compliance.