By Odunewu Segun
Duties on imported cargoes in the country have risen by about 43 per cent since the Central Bank of Nigeria floated the naira, moving the naira to dollar exchange from N197 to a minimum of N280.
National Daily gathered that prior to the adjustment of the exchange rate, the duties on imported items had earlier been calculated on N197 to a dollar rate despite the high rate in the black market.
However, in a circular that was recently issued to all zonal coordinators and Customs Area Controllers, signed by the Deputy Comptroller-General, Tariff and Trade, Nigeria Customs Service, A. Adewuyi, directed that the relevant provisions in the Customs and Excise Management Act on the evaluation of duty for cargoes should be complied with.
“Where the value of an imported good is shown in foreign currency, such value is to be converted to the equivalent Nigerian currency as at the rate at the time of making entry. The current rates of exchange are published at the Customs House,” the statement reads.
It added that the Comptroller-General, of Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Ahmed Ali (retd.), had directed that all declarations in respect of imported goods whose values were shown in foreign currencies must comply with the provision.
The spokesperson for the Tin-Can Island Customs Command, Chris Osunkwo, confirmed the development, saying, “We observed last Friday that the current exchange rate of the naira to the dollar had been adjusted on our system. This development has nothing to do with the Customs because we are acting in accordance with our law.
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The National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, Olayiwola Shittu, said although the development was expected, he called on the NCS to be transparent with the process.
“We are appealing to the Customs to have a holistic approach to the evaluation of duty. If they are going to use a benchmark of exchange for a certain period, then they should say so. We don’t want to be taken advantage of or have a situation where after paying duty for your cargo, at the point of release, someone asks you to go back and make another payment because another rate has been released for the new week.”
Shittu also appealed to the Customs to ensure that such directives and regulations emanating from its headquarters to the field officers were shared with customs agents and importers.
An importer, Nicodemus Odolo, described the adjustment by the Customs as having a negative effect on the Nigerian economy.
He said, “I just got the information today. I believe this adjustment of the exchange rate on import duties will shut down Nigerian seaports. Importers will no longer be able to import cargoes because no businessman will want to engage in anything that will not yield profit. Already, everyone is groaning about the hardship and inflation in the country.”