Trouble trails Customs 15% NAC levy on imported used cars

...Freight Forwarders, others to plan strike

A fresh round of controversy has ensued at the nation’s seaport between the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), car dealers, and the freight forwarders following the recent imposition of a 15 percent National Automotive Council (NAC) levy on imported used vehicles.

This development is coming seven weeks after the suspension of a two-week strike embarked on by registered freight forwarders over the issues around the introduction of the controversial Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) valuation policy by the NCS, which dealers said generates outrageous values for imported cars.

The fresh controversy started after NCS announced two weeks back that it has reviewed the duty on imported used cars from 35 percent down to 20 percent, but went further to add another 15 percent NAC levy.

According to Timi Bomodi, public relations officer of Customs, the new tariff was in line with the tariff adjustments as stipulated in the Common External Tariff (CET) of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol, which Nigeria is a signatory to.

Interestingly, with the new policy, car dealers bringing in used cars popularly known as ‘tokunbo’ into the country would be expected to pay 20 percent import duty plus 15 percent NAC levy, amounting to 35 percent duty.

Giving insight into the issue, Lewis Ogunojemite, a former Customs officer, who faulted the controversial 15 percent NAC levy imposed on imported vehicles, described it as an illegal collection.

Ogunojemite said that Customs brought down the import duty on used vehicles to 20 percent from 35 percent to give the impression that they are complying with the ECOWAS protocol, only for them to go back door to introduce a 15 percent NAC levy in an attempt to retain the old duty rate of 35 percent.

He explained that the Common External Tariff, which NCS claimed it wants to be implementing with the new tariff regime, has been in existence in Nigeria since 2009, and Nigeria never implemented it.

According to him, the CET agreement states that no country will charge more than 20 percent on used cars, but Nigeria had in the past placed a 35 percent duty on imported vehicles, which is wrong.

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“It is now in this dispensation that ECOWAS is putting its feet down that Nigeria must comply with the protocol that was why Customs returned used vehicles to 20 percent and put the 15 percent they removed from the duty as NAC levy,” he further explained.

On the NAC levy, Ogunojemite said the policy was formulated to protect the 36 companies registered to manufacture vehicles in Nigeria but some of them are bringing in new vehicles into the country as made-in-Nigeria cars.

Ogunojemite said that NAC policy only recommended a 2 percent levy to encourage local production of vehicles, adding that the 15 percent NAC levy is an ‘illegal collection’ that shows the government is playing tricks on its citizens.

On his part, Kayode Farinto, the national vice president of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), said that imposing a 15 percent NAC levy on used vehicles is an ‘aberration’, which freight forwarders will fight against but not through striking.

According to him, the levy is supposed to be 2 percent of Cost, Insurance, and Freight on new vehicles or spare parts and not used vehicles.

He however said that ANLCA would be engaging with the Federal Ministry of Finance, which is the ministry overseeing Customs, on the issue.

George Okafor, the chairman of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) PTML chapter, said the policy is wrong because Customs is not supposed to calculate the NAC levy on used vehicles.

“The levy is for new vehicles, and not old or used vehicles,” he added.

Meanwhile, many of the aggrieved freight forwarders and car dealers said they will be embarking on another round of down tooling to protest the new levy at the end of the Ramadan season next week as confirmed by Rilwan Amuni, the chairman of the ANLCA task force.

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