Home Maritime Nwagbara laments frustration of complaints of over-assessment

Nwagbara laments frustration of complaints of over-assessment

A maritime Lawyer, Barr. Osuala Nwagbara has lamented the practice by officials of the Nigerian Customs Services (NCS) to employ every available instrument to frustrate genuine complaint of over-assessment by the Nigeria in matters of valuation describing it as a denial of port user’s access to justice.
Barr. Nwagbara who was speaking at the 1st Shippers’ Day Celebration organized by the Shippers’ Association of Lagos State (SALS) noted that Paragraph 13 of the 1st Schedule to the Act No. 20, 2003 which made the Comptroller General of Customs a semi-final authority to adjudicate on all disagreements on Customs valuation before a dissatisfied party would approach the court envisaged that disagreement over assessment to Customs Duty was a civil disagreement which should be settled through a thought through procedure.
According to him,” but in practice, the Nigeria Customs Service frustrates this procedure. Once an assessment is done, it is take it or leave. All forms of chicanery will be employed to frustrate genuine complaint of over assessment to duty, beginning from delay in attending to the complaint, to subtle threat of declaring the affected cargo overtime cargo, with the unpleasant consequence of being lost to the federal Government of Nigeria”.
“This encourages corruption in the system apart from restricting the affected port user’s access to Justice. Nigeria is a member of the World Customs Organization (WCO) which is the technical arm of WTO on trade facilitation. WCO promotes the adoption of international standards that leads to simplification and harmonization of Customs operations and procedures. The use of standards adds to the effectiveness of customs operations and procedures as they provide a simple and predictable trading environment and promote easier and better compliance from traders”.
Barr. Nwagbara who is also the Principal Partner, Maritime and Commercial Law Partners disclosed that it was suggested that where there was genuine complaint of over assessment to duty, the cargo should be released to the owner on insurance bond especially where such owner was an established importer and had good reputation.
“In that case assessment based on the presented transaction value of goods should be accepted as customs duty pending the final resolution either at the level of the Comptroller-General or a Panel of independent dispute resolvers such as the Nigerian Maritime Arbitrators Association of Nigeria or as may be decided by a court of competent jurisdiction”, he said.
Reacting, the Customs Area Controller (CAC) Apapa Area Command, Mr. Eporwei Charles Edike said that the law provided for the use of both the bank bond and insurance bond but nevertheless disclosed that it was easier for Nigeria Customs Service to get the banks to pay Customs than to get the insurance companies thus the preference for the bank bond than the insurance bond.
Edike also said that owing to instability in the insurance sector, one could not guarantee which of the insurance companies could still be there by the time the service would call for its money.
“So, if they go to insurance companies to get a bond, we tell them no. But there are also some insurance companies that are highly reputable that we can also accept and honour but if you get from those that are far below expectation, we will reject it”.
“But normally, we prefer banks indemnity than insurance indemnity because federal government revenue is more protected with the bank indemnity than with insurance indemnity. So, for us, bank is better for us than insurance”, Edike explained.

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