ANLCA decries incessant collapse of VREG, as importers incur huge

By Steve Agbota , [email protected] 08033302331

THe Federal Government introduced National Vehicle Registry (VREG) about few months ago for imported vehicles. With VREG, every vehicle imported into the country through the seaports was expected to pay some amount of money before migrating to the customs portal for assessment. The incessant collapse of the platform has caused vehicle importers and clearing agents’ huge losses on a daily basis.

“It is very unfortunate that we are talking about trade facilitation and ease of doing business, yet it takes a minimum of four days to generate VREG to evacuate a vehicle. Most times, you make the payment and the status doesn’t change. Consequently, you’ll not be able to migrate to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) portal to generate the VIN that was introduced in January.”

“I believe that the sector doesn’t need VREG because it seems to be another means to extort importers. If the government wants data of vehicles cleared legitimately from the ports, all they need to do is to liaise with the NCS. When experts posit that Nigerian seaports are bedeviled by numerous charges, this VREG is another issue that validates such assertion.”

These were the words of National Vice President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Dr. Kayode Farinto.

The VREG platform, which was created by the Federal Ministry of Finance (FMoF) for imported vehicles last year became mandatory and first prerequisite for any vehicle that must be cleared from the nations port has been malfunctioning.

Then, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr. Zainab Ahmed, said the introduction of VREG policy was to reduce vehicle theft, enhance national security and generate revenue for the government.

The ministry is implementing this scheme in collaboration with state governments and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).

However, in the last one month, the platform has failed to serve the purpose it was created for as the importers and clearing agents are unable to clear their consignments at the even after make payments.

Speaking with Daily Sun, Farinto said that in the last few weeks, the VREG server deployed by the operators had been epileptic, adding that even when one makes payment, it would fail to update the customer’s status to enable such customer move to the next level to clear the vehicle thereby forcing the vehicle to accumulate storages and nobody seemed to be interested in doing anything to address the situation.

“VREG was introduced by the Federal Ministry of Finance and the explanation was that they want to have all the data of vehicles that legitimately come into the country through seaports and a certain fee was attached to every vehicle that is coming into the seaports depending on your cubic capacity, the type of vehicle you are clearing and the mode whether it is SUV, smaller cars or buses but the most important thing is that you cannot clear any consignment, you cannot generate any assessment in the seaports without first of all paying for VREG.

“It is not as if we are complaining for the importers but the fact that you cannot even generate this VREG and pay on time is what we are talking about and the fact that it is making our importers to pay too much storage, most time, it could take three to four days, they will tell you that the server is down, you cannot move forward until you generate the VREG. It has been done in such a way that they key into Customs portal and maybe the people that actually midwife this software did not do a thorough job or maybe they didn’t deploy modern software.

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“So, you have a situation where there is always problem on a daily basis on the VREG platform. Our members are suffering and we want the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Finance to urgently do something about this.

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“Honestly, if it continues like this, we may not have a choice than to go to court to challenge the Federal Government on this issue of VREG as individuals, freight forwarders that the government should start paying demurrages for our consignment because it’s not our making,” he lamented.

He disclosed that the Ministry actually contracted a Consortium that was collecting the money on behalf of Ministry of Finance, adding that one cannot do any clearing of vehicle at the seaports without first of all paying the VREG fee and it depends on the cubic capacity of the vehicle, the make and the type.

“When you do that, you now graduate to the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) implementation, which was introduced by the Nigeria Customs Service. Before now, all you needed to do was to go to the Nigeria Customs Valuation Unit, tender your bill of laden and they will give you value. But now, once you have your genuine invoice and you migrate from VREG, you just input your data, the system must collect it and issue you with assessment of what to pay immediately.

“The VREG is controlled by the Federal Ministry of Finance while the VIN Number is controlled by the Nigeria Customs Service on vehicle clearance in the seaports”, he further explained.

On the fee payable on the VREG portal, he said there is no specific amount but they did it in such a way that the minimum is N4, 000 up to N30, 000, adding that they are the ones that know the parameter they are using for the payment.

Meanwhile, he said the ANLCA has introduced indemnity form as a means to protect its members and other freight forwarders from such unwarranted arrest and prosecution over importation of offensive items.

According to him, importation of offensive items including psychotropic substances like tramadol; arms and ammunition among others were increasing in the ports. He explained that whenever there is such illicit import, the first person to be arrested would be the customs broker who was actually clearing the consignment.

Due to such occurrence, he advised members to go extra mile as freight forwarders to protect themselves and protect their agencies.

“In view of that, I have come out with an indemnity form, it’s going to serve as indemnity between the agency which is the indemnitee and the importer who is the indemnifier that is giving you the job”, he said.

Reading the content of the indemnity form, he said: “The indemnitee desires protection against any personal liability, claim suit, non declaration of actual content in the cargo or any false declaration. “Note that your bill of lading with number (you state the number on the bill of lading) is said to contain (you name the content of the consignment) and where any psychotropic y, illicit drugs or any offensive goods are found, we shall not be culpable.

“The indemnitee wishes to minimize any hardship the indemnitee might suffer as a result of any personal liability claim. The indemnitee is a member of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents and shall be protected by them.”

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