After days of a stand off, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) yesterday backed down on its decision to collect motor duty payments on imported vehicles on the roads.
Though the duty was initially targeted at car dealers, the Service added that it would get owners and drivers of vehicles to make the payments if stopped at Customs check points.
Trouble then flipped to a higher gear. The outrage became uncontrollably cancerous as many, groaning under the biting economic recession saw the Customs move as “wicked and callous”.
It is not exactly known if it was the strong Car Dealers lobby that persuaded the Senate to join the battle, or simply lawmakers fighting for their constituents, but the face-off pitted the lawmakers against Customs boss, Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd).
Hiding behind his blatant refusal to obey the Upper House of the National Assembly’s instruction that he begins to dress up in the Customs official uniform, the lawmakers took the Customs chief on headlong.
Since public opinion was not on its side as more and more Nigerians reacted angrily, even backing Senators they often do not support, the Service retreated in frustration. The move was seen as painful as the Service intended to use the move to shore up dwindling revenue, and put a stop to the rabid smuggling of imported vehicles into the country.
Yesterday, the Customs spokesman, Joseph Attah, announced the volte face on duty on imported vehicles.
Attah said: “Following the unnecessary tension generated as a result of misconception and misrepresentation of the Nigeria Customs Service planned motor duty payment, the leadership of the National Assembly (NASS) and the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd) met with a view to resolving the impasse.
“NASS and Hameed Ali both agreed that the proposed motor duty payment, though in line with the provision of Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) Cap C.45, LFN 2004 should be put on hold while the Senate Committee on Customs & Excise interfaces with the NCS for further discussions.
“While payment of duty on vehicles or indeed any dutiable imported item remains a civic responsibility of every patriotic Nigerian, NCS Management has directed that the exercise be put on hold while expressing readiness to engage the Senate Committee on further discussions to bring them on board to understand the importance of the exercise to national security and economy.”