VIN Policy Open To Review, Says Tincan Customs Command, Applauds Stakeholders Over Peaceful Protest

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By; RAYMOND TEDUNJAYE, Lagos


The Tincan Island Port Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has implored stakeholders protesting the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) Policy to come up with an alternative that is acceptable internationally, as per best global practices. 
It however applauded the leadership and members of the various groups involved in the protest over the peaceful and matured manner with which their members handle the protest.
Pointing out that the VIN Policy is not casted in concrete, the Command said it can be subjected to review provided there is an alternative that meets the world best standard.
The Command’s spokesperson CSC Uche Ejesieme who made this known in a chat emphasised that the stakeholders were engaged through webnair meetings about seven times by the headquarters before the commence of the policy.
He pointed out that only few stakeholders participated each time  it held, noting that the protestt might have been informed by lack of understanding of the policy.
Ejesieme quickly pointed out that adapting to a new policy has always come with teething problems and pioneering challenges.
In addition,  he posited that the Customs Serrvice is advancing the full automation, platform  and procedure, which is the trend  and by World Trade Organization (WTO) standard and  across the globe.  
He explained that the move is actually geared at ensurimg that all stakeholders are ICT savvy, adding that non- computer literate participant would be stranded.
According to him, the Nigeria Customs Serrvice is not interested in impoverishing Nigerians, but ensuring that Nigeria is in tune with the global best practices.
” First and foremost, It will be very appropriate to commend the members and leadership of the various organizations for the way they have conducted themselves through this lockjam.
Yes, we agreed some of these issues have a serious implications for our revenue, we also understand the fact that when new policies are rolled out like this, it is usually accompanied with teething and pioneering challenges. First and foremost Customs is advancing the full automation, platform  and procedure and that is the trend  and by World Trade Organization (WTO) standard and  across the globe.  This move is actually geared at ensurimg that very soon, anyone who is not ICT savvy would not be able to transact business with us.
It is very interesting to know that even Customs emoluments, if you are not ICT savvy, you can not fill your forms because everything is online now and very soon most of the meeting we will be having will be online.
On VIN Valuation, article 1 of Trade Facilitation Agreement is very categorical on some of the steps you must take, before you can actually deploy some policies and that article is about communication and engagement with stakeholders and this was complied with. 
What they did at the headquarters, I have the records, all of these stuff were deployed, they had series of webnair. Incedentally, Comptroller Kunle Oloyede who is the Controller of the Tincan Island Port Command was the one that was sending the mails from the headquarters and the ACG ICT Modernisation will specifically send to all the public relations officers of the Commands, just to make sure the information was put on the appropriate platforms. Even in some instances, we created some whatapp platforms for easy dissemination of information and always invite them for webnair on Saturdays by 11.00 o’clock so that nobody will complain of other conflicting engagement and they were doing it every two weeks, after sending circular.And unfortunately, anytime they arrange the webnair, you discover that it is a handful of people that will attend the seminar. It is either the organiser of the seminar, ACG ICT and Controller of that Command, people were not turning in. 
Unfortunately either because of lack of understanding or lack of interest, most of these people, while they were having this conversations, seem not to understand the import of what they are discussing and the policy was eventually rolled out.”
Speaking further,  the Tincan Command image maker hinted that the protest was caused by wrong application of the codes in clearing vehicles by the agents.
His words, ” When the policy was eventually rolled out, the management noticed some irregularities in the way they captured. There are three codes, zero, zero, zero is for normal standard VIN which is the Standard for Vehicles from America and non standard VIN is 846 and this is for vehicles from Europe and Asia and in the process of inputting the code, once you put any dot or comer in the code, the machine automatically takes you to another place that nobody can explain. And in Customs balance, it was discovered that there are over 7000 AGDs that have problem of improper coding system and Customs begins to ask questions because it can not tolerate such infraction.They now go back to the system and they discovered the problem was as a result of inappropriate application of the code.
We are not saying the policy is cast in stone or as rigid as people might have anticipated, but what we are saying is that everybody must advance to full automation. The agents, the importers, security agencies, all stakeholders must be on the same page with the Customs. 
If you come to out platform, we have NAFDAC, we have SON, we don’t have problems with them because they have given us their codes so that we meet ourselves in the system. Some are automated in silos and what this means is that you are automated and we can not see you, but we are pushing. Luckily for us now, our Controller is an ICT savvy and cerebral officer coming from ICT background. He has been preaching, advocating that everybody should come on board so that there will be seamless operation. Even we have told our officers that if you are not computer savvy you can not cope with the exigencies. Until we get to full automation, this challenges will continue to linger”
Speaking on auction value clamoured for by the agents, the Tincan Command image maker clarified that is has never been part of the valuation system of the Nigeria Customs Service and can not be  possible to be considered.
 He explained that the Customs Service usually goes for  global value for obvious reasons.
”  And for the depreciation value, that is why the controller said this document might not be too perfect, that what they should do is to go back to the drawing board, form a kind of coalition and come and speak with one voice, articulate their position, get any value that is in alliance with WTO and global best practices, come up their own suggestions so that we can put them side by side with Customs value, so that we can have common opinion.
So instead of going to protest, let them go and articulate an opinion in writing so that the CAC that is here can escalate it as a form of feedback to the headquarters.
This thing can actually be reviewed if there is any reasonable reason, if they can come up with suggestion that is at variance with the Customs but also acceptable internationally, as per best global practices. And that is the best way, strike has never help any situation in the world, it has always been engagement, engagement and engagement”, Ejesieme  stressed.

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