The Customs will proceed with its planned verification of payment of duties on imported vehicles at the appropriate time, according to the Comptroller General of Customs,Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd).
The policy, which is currently on hold following the widespread outcry on account of its retroactive nature, allows Customs personnel to stop and impound any vehicle imported into the country over the last seven years for which no import duty has been paid.
The Senate, which is locked in a showdown with Ali over his refusal to appear before it in Customs uniform, passed a resolution asking the organization to stop the vehicle duty verification policy.
Ali said in an interview in Abuja that the policy is not all about the revenue it will generate for government,but also for security reasons.
“Somebody can pick your car and go and commit armed robbery or another offence because we do not have the data, we cannot trace the car to the owner. But if every car is tied to the owner, it would make crime detection easier.
“I can tell you today that there are cars on our streets that have not been registered and there are people with different number plates in their houses. They just attach the number plate on any car they decide to drive and zoom off. This is simply not right.
“For those of us who have lived in the United States of America, your plate number is your identity. Once they compute your plate number, everything about you will be reflected there. That is the position we want to be in this country.
“We are consulting and we want to get to that level. We just create the level that capturing the data will be easier for us. The issue of verification is necessary because of the security situation in the country.
“Also, there is the revenue aspect. You will not deny that we need all the legal money that we need in this country today. It is going to be tasking on us all, but the payment of dues in some country is necessary. We need to understand that some countries survive on tax. It is only in Nigeria that we shy away from paying our dues and people question why they should pay,”Ali said.
Ali explained that in enforcing the policy, “the Customs will not be as hard as people think.”
“This is what we want people in Nigeria to begin to understand. Yes, we regret he hardship, but honestly, for us to be able to move forward in terms of our security, we must grow a level higher in this country. We cannot attain any level without hardship.
“It may tamper with our ways of doing things, but in the long run, we shall all be better for it. So for now, you know we have suspended the policy. We are asking for feedback, we will look at the policy and refine it and then we see how best we can apply it without causing hardship to Nigerians. So we have not put a date to it yet. We are still consulting. When we do, we will let Nigerians know,” he said.