By Steve Agbota, Lagos
Anxiety as hoodlums from Ajegunle and Mushin are set to hijack the peaceful protest of freight forwarders against anomalies in the controversial Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) valuation system used for allocating standard values to all imported vehicles at the ports.
The protest, which commenced on Monday at PTML terminal and at Tin can Island port against the anomalies in the VIN valuation system introduced by the Federal Ministry of Finance and implemented by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has so far entered the fourth day yesterday, even as Customs is yet to meet the demand of the aggrieved freight forwarders.
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Addressing newsmen at Apapa Port, the National Coordinator of NAGAFF 100 per cent Compliance team, Ibrahim Tanko, said an intelligence report revealed that the hoodlums are already on the ground to hijack the protest from the aggrieved freight forwarders and licensed customs agents.
According to him, following the report, the association has instructed its members to withdraw from the ongoing protest at the nation’s seaports to avoid what happened during the END SARS protest, as lives and properties would be lost.
‘We remember what happened to END-SARS where some people hijacked the peaceful protest and at the end, we lost some lives. This time around we have confirmed information since yesterday that people from Ajegunle and Mushin are already participating in the protest.
‘They don’t know what is freight forwarding business and with such kind of people, before you know it, the situation will be out of control and I don’t want anybody to tarnish the image of 100 per cent Compliance task team of NAGAFF because of the protest. The police and Navy have been alerted and that is why we have to withdraw from the ongoing project,’ he said.
He said there are amicable ways of addressing issues of policies in trade facilitation other than protest.
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He, therefore, urged freight forwarders and Customs agents to engage Customs constructively on the best way in resolving the agitation.
Tanko added that the NAGAFF executives at the national level will engage the management of Customs on the best way in addressing the VIN policy, adding that none of NAGAFF’s members is involved in the protest at Tin Can Island Port and reiterating that the e-valuation has come to stay.
Meanwhile, a security expert, Dr Segun Musa, implored freight forwarders to terminate the protests immediately and change strategies to push forward their grievances.
He said the use of propaganda like thugs joining the protests is an attempt to arrest and if possible kill innocent practitioners participating in the protests.
“Kindly be mindful of the needs for strategic planning as the world is aware of your genuine arguments and the need for government to call the customs to order. Intelligence shows that the customs prefers importers abandoning their goods in the ports so as to have more goods to auction hence, the need for an intellectual fraudulent policy like VIN,” he said.
He said stakeholders will continue to implore the Federal Government to check the excesses of the Nigeria Customs Service that keeps nosediving the economy, increasing the poverty levels and keeping innocent citizens in abject poverty and joblessness.