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Clearing agents falsify documents to evade taxes, duty – Customs 

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Abiola Seun

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), has accused clearing agents operating in the nation’s seaports of falsifying documents in other to evade duty on imported cargoes.

In a statement by the Deputy National Public Relations Officer of the service, Timi Bomadi, said the service has not introduced new valuation system on cargoes imported into the country through the seaports.

According to him, the service has no benchmarks for costs, values or duty but accused clearing agents of cooking up invoices to evade or reduce customs duty and taxes.

Bomodi who was speaking against the backdrop of allegations by clearing agents that the service introduced a new valuation system which has led to the imposition of benchmark values on general cargoes coming into the country through the ports,  said when agents resort to cooking up invoices with the intention of evading duty, the service is bound to adjust values using the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO’s) agreement on Customs valuation.

He said, “In one breath, clearing agents demand uniform values for vehicles and insist on totally different standards for other commodities.

“There are no benchmarks for costs, values or duty but, when agents resort to cooking up invoices with the intention of evading duty, we are also duty bound to adjust those values using the WTO’s agreement on Customs valuation, to reflect reality.
“Where there is honesty in intension and action, the NCS can only reciprocate in good faith,” he said.

Speaking further, Bomodi said clearing agents should know that authenticating documents submitted for clearance of cargoes in the ports have been made very easy by technology.

“We live in a world where authenticating documents submitted for the validation of Customs has been made easy by technology.
“The NCS has at its disposal the historical records of all imports, exports, importers, exporters and a comprehensive index of values submitted by importers themselves.

“The Service has numerous resources at its disposal for the verification, authentication, and adjustment of submitted data.

“The same agents develop selective amnesia when confronted with the historical data of their importers within defined periods as cross referenced from our system.”

The Customs image maker in the statement stated that the recent installation of scanners at the seaports will facilitate trade as well as end physical examination of cargoes at the port.

“The recent installation of scanners at a few of our ports will address the challenge of physical examination of goods and we look forward to their full engagement as it will no doubt help to facilitate trade.

” We are also mindful of the impact our actions can have on legitimate traders, that is why we have provided avenues for the expedited clearance of goods under fast track and other facilitative channels for businesses with unblemished records.”

“We understand that the frustrations of some of these clearing agents is caused by radical change in the trajectory of business practices at our ports and borders as penchant for cutting corners as exemplified in false declarations and illegal deductions in Customs values are constantly checkmated by diligent officers intent on facilitating legitimate trade only.”

“So, their anger is not for the number of alerts in the system but for being stopped by it and the introduction of artificial intelligence and machine learning, more loopholes in the system will be identified and plugged.”

“As agents of government, we can only live to the billings and briefs issued to us by our supervising ministry and revenue collection being one of our duties, is one to which we are wholly committed as attested to by our ground breaking achievements in current and previous years.”

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