The Nigeria Customs Service has seized a total of 3,491 second-hand vehicles brought into the country illegally with duty paid value of N2bn between the first quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2023.
A document obtained exclusively by Sunday PUNCH from the NCS showed that in the first quarter of 2021, a total of 304 vehicles with DPV of N501m were seized, while in the same period in 2022, the service seized 3,039 vehicles with DPV of N699m.
The document also showed that in the same period of 2023, the service recorded the lowest seizure of 148 vehicles, but with the highest DPV of N863m.
Speaking on the seizures, a Customs officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, admitted that the number of vehicles seized in the first quarter of this year was low and the duties payable very high.
He stated that the vehicles imported so far this year were probably more expensive than the ones that came in 2021 and 2022.
The source said, “If a vehicle is used to convey smuggled items in contravention of the law, it will be seized. A vehicle that was improperly imported, imported through an unapproved route or a vehicle that was used to smuggle non-customs items will definitely be seized, that is what the law states.
“The importation of those vehicles is only allowed through the seaports. So, anybody who tries to import a vehicle through the land borders is engaging in smuggling and such vehicles will be seized. All vehicles are supposed to come in through Nigerian seaports. All the vehicles that were seized were in contravention of various Customs laws.”
Reacting to this, the founder of the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria, Mr Frank Ukor, blamed the constant increase in the tariff of imported vehicles for smuggling.
He stated, “The reason is simple; the government keeps increasing the tariff on these vehicles. To an average importer, the duty is high and if you add it to the amount they spend in buying the cars, they may not be able to sell them. So, they decide to look for unapproved routes, where it will be cheaper to bring in the vehicles; that is the problem.
“The importers fail to realise that they will be the ultimate loser. If at the end of the day the Customs intercept the vehicles, it is an automatic seizure and the money they spend on buying such vehicles will be wasted.”
Ukor advised importers to ensure that appropriate duties were paid on imported used vehicles.
The General Secretary of the Lagos State Motor Dealers Association, Mr Tia Olaniran, said, “The fault is that the tax they are placing on imported vehicles now is so high. And there are no stable prices for vehicles; the prices differ from place to place, and to get dollars is not easy coupled with the cash crunch earlier this year.
“You see, we are not even making sales; we just come to the office, gist and go back home. So, we hope that the new government that is coming on board is going to do something about that. But presently, what they are doing at the ports now is not easy for importers and car sellers.”
The Chief Executive Officer, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, Dr Muda Yusuf, said the duty on imported vehicles was too high.
“The duty is too high and the higher the duty, the higher the number of people who want to smuggle. We also have many unscrupulous Nigerians, who do not want to pay duty. But the basic thing is that the duty is too high because when you look at the duty and the exchange rate, and when you consider all those things, the cost becomes extremely high. These are the incentives for smuggling; they need to look at the duty again as it is too high,” Yusuf stated.