Vehicle importers are concerned that the National Vehicle Registration (VREG) portal to clear their vehicles before they approach the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to pay duty for the imported vehicles may have failed.
With this development, the federal government may be losing billions of naira over the inability of Customs licensed agents to access the portal just as the importers decry delays of their goods at the ports, our reporters learnt.
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Without the VREG certificate, which is currently being issued to agents, no importer or agent can approach Customs for evaluation of duty.
The Federal Ministry of Finance had in April 2020 commenced moves to create a VREG, an information system that will curb evasion of duty payment on imported vehicles and eliminate the sale of stolen, accident-wrecked and unsafe vehicles into the Nigerian market.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, who had championed this initiative, had explained that the platform would also be used for information interchange.
But Daily Trust observed at Tin-Can Island Port that the beautiful idea is a pain in the neck of importers and clearing agents as they are now made to pay millions of naira to terminal operators, in form of demurrage over their inability to access the VREG portal.
Daily Trust investigation at Tin-Can Island Port revealed a long queue of clearing agents waiting for the VREG portal to come up.
Speaking about the frequent collapse of the VREG portal, the Public Relations Officer of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Clearing Agents (ANLCA), Tin-Can Island chapter, Joy Onome Monije, said the portal owned and operated by the Ministry of Finance had been down since last week.
She said there was no network to log into the portal as a result of which agents can’t work efficiently since the introduction of the VREG.
“As a result of the portal issue, we don’t sleep at night because we will be searching for a network connection, sometimes it comes up within 2 am and 3 am, but then it will be very slow and most times comes on and off.
“Any little mistake increases the trouble of the agent since he/she is not allowed to cancel, amend or correct the error,” she added.
Another agent, Emeka Tobechukwu, wants the finance ministry to explain in clear terms who should do VREG.
The Public Relations Officer, Tin-Can Island Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, Uche Ejisieme, while reacting to the issue, said the challenges encountered during registration were actually teething problems associated with any new project.
He said the NCS is partnering with the Ministry of Finance with a view to ensuring a seamless operation.
“The challenges experienced will fizzle out with time. It cannot be there forever. It is best described as a teething problem associated with any new project,” he added.