Customs May Generate N500bn From Overtime Cargoes Auction
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) may rake in over N500 billion from over 8,000 overtime cargoes that are trapped at the port where the cargoes and the auctioning are subjected to due diligence.
Sources at the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) at the weekend said the government should set a benchmark for Customs in the auctioning of the abandoned containers so that nobody, including the importers and government officials, would be able to shortchange the nation.
Shippers Council is the economic regulator of the port.
A senior official at the NSC said the Minister of Finance should ensure that none of the containers must be auctioned for less than 50 percent of its declared value and content.
“Our experience is that most of the importers of this overtime containers are waiting in the wing. They want a situation whereby the goods would be returned to them at no extra cost.
“Since nobody can prevent them from participating in the auction and they already know the value of the goods in each of the containers they brought to the country, it is left for the Minister of Finance to set a bench mark for them to buy.
“For instance, if it becomes a rule that the auction price of any of the containers is not lower than 50 per cent of the value of goods inside each of the containers, the government will realise about N500 billion from over 8,500 abandoned containers currently trapped inside the ports across the country.
Investigation byThe Nation revealed that to clear a 20ft container, a shipper would pay N1million as surface duty with extra charges of about N800,000 to cover VAT and others
On the 40ft container, the Vice President, Association of the Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLA) Dr Kayode Farinto said, importers pay about N2 million as surface duty with about N800,000 for additional charges totalling N2.8million.
Sources at the Shippers Council said there are over 8,500 overtime cargoes abandoned at the various ports across the country, and urged the leadership of Customs to use the opportunity of the fast approaching auction to free up space at the port, reduce the gridlock and boost government revenue.
According to him, the number of abandoned containers in the ports are more than 7,500 has being peddled by some people.
“As the economic regulator of the port, we have our records and they are open. The fact is that there are over 7,500 overtime containers littering the seaports. They are about 8,500 in number that need to be auctioned immediately, if the owners are not coming forward to pay the necessary government duty attached to their goods
A senior official of the Nigeria Customs Service, who sought anonymity, said the value of the commodities in many of the containers was over N20 million.
“For instance, there are vehicles in some of the containers that worth more N10 million and N20million each,” the source said.
Investigation revealed that some of the containers have been in the ports for over five years because of excess charges and inability of the importers to pay demurrage.
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), it gathered, is one of the leading agencies mounting pressure on Customs to auction the overtime containers to increase the government revenue.
Sources closed to terminal operators told The Nation at the weekend that there are 6,000 containers laden with cargoes in the various terminals at the Lagos and Tincan Island ports in Apapa, while more 2,500 containers have taken over the available space at Ikorodu Lighter Terminal (ILT)
A maritime analyst, Mr Adesope Omojola, said the era of auctioning government goods at ridiculous prices had gone.
“Gone are the days when Customs can auction a full container of iron rod for N300,000 and N400,000 has gone. The government needs fund to develop port infrastructure and one area where the government is generating money is through Customs duty.
“If an importer brings a container into the country and decided to abandon it because he or she could not pay Customs duty at port and the person is now waiting for the auction period to collect with left hand what he abandoned through the right hand, it is our duty to tell the person that we know the value of the items inside his or her container and must be ready to pay for it before it can be released to him.
“ The truth is that before Customs can ask you to pay more than N2million as surface duty to clear a container, the value of that container must surely be more than N7million.
“Therefore, going by the figure of abandoned containers at Lagos ports given by the NPA, the government can generate over N500billion if Customs is to auction abandoned containers in every port terminals across the country,” he said.