Maritime Lawyer Laments Customs’ Frustration Of Genuine Complaint On Over-Assessment

Maritime Lawyer Laments Customs' Frustration Of Genuine Complaint On Over-Assessment
Barr. Emmanuel Osuala Nwagbara

The Secretary, Maritime Arbitrators Association of Nigeria, Barr. Osuala Nwagbara has condemned the Customs’ tactics of frustrating genuine complaints of over-assessment in valuation matters even as he said that the practice amounted to denial of port users’ access to justice.

Barr. Nwagbara said this said recently, while speaking at an event recently.

He 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.

In his words,”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 Organisation (WCO) which is the technical arm of WTO on trade facilitation.

“WCO promotes the adoption of international standards that leads to simplification and harmonisation 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.

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