LCCI Says Customs Frustrating Ease Of Doing Business

Yemisi Izuora

The Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, has sadly observed frustrating activities of the Nigeria Custom Service, particularly when it comes to valuation and classification of imported goods.

The Chamber noted with concern highhandedness in addressing issues arising from disputes on valuation, classification of imported goods, by the Customs.

Mrs Toki Mabogunje, President of the LCCI, who made the observations also called for reopening of Nigeria’s international borders.

At a press conference on the state of the economy, on Tuesday in Lagos, Mabogunje also sought for a dispute resolution framework that is fair, just and equitable to address the disputes between the Nigeria Customs Service and importers to improve the nation’s ease of doing business ranking.

According to her, the resolution of disputes with the Nigerian Customs Service on import valuation and classification matters is becoming increasingly challenging for the business community.

She sought an equivalent of the tax tribunals that resolves tax disputes between the taxpayers and tax authorities.

“There is too much discretionary powers in the process.

“In the bid by Customs Service to achieve its revenue target, importers including manufacturers are subjected to arbitrary valuation and classification which results in increases in the cost of imports including raw materials.

“Regrettably, there is no credible dispute resolution framework to ensure fairness and equity in the resolution of such disputes.

“When importers have such complaints, the only window for appeal is still the Nigerian Customs Service.

“Importers are thus faced with a scenario where the accuser is also the judge,” she said.

The term ‘tariff classification of goods’ is defined in Article 57 of the Union Customs Code, UCC.

It means determining the subheadings or further subdivisions of the Combined Nomenclature (CN) under which the goods will be classified.

Classification is not just used to determine the customs duty rate for a specific subheading, it is also used to apply non-tariff measures.

So, even if all goods were zero-rated for customs purposes, classifications could still be necessary if you need to; apply for an import or export licence; find out if import or export restrictions apply; issue a certificate of origin; claim an export refund or similar; determine whether or not a product is liable to excise duty;  find out if a reduced value-added tax rate applies (insofar as the CN is used as a basis of reference)

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