Mr. Goddy Sewa Soleji, MD Oman Investment Nig. Ltd.
Story by Dili Utomi.
The present realities of economic hardship imposed on the citizens directly and indirectly by the various programmes and policies of the Government has continued to draw the concern of most Nigerians especially as a lot of businesses are closing down and people are being pushed more and more into the economic and social abyss. A freight forwarder of repute and one with decades of experience in the freight forwarding and Customs Brokerage business, Mr. Goddy Soleji in an exclusive interview with us has given a knock on some of the programmes and policies of the Nigerian government especially as it concerns his area of specialisation and advised that the government should retrace its steps and make life more bearable for Nigerians.
Mr. Soleji started the interview by first dwelling on the present energy crises that the country is experiencing noting that most of the electricity needs in his office are being provided through the use of a standby generator. He stressed that they have to buy diesel at the rate of #720 per litre in order to fuel the generator and make it work. It is noteworthy to say that for weeks now, Nigerians have been groaning under the weight of fuel scarcity and the near absence of electricity supply through the collapse of the national grid. Mr Soleji insisted that the energy crises have negatively impacted businesses and Nigerians in general and that it looks like Nigerians have been left to their fate adding that ” We are living just by the grace of God. A civil servant who has been earning the sum of #50,000.00 and who has not had a salary raise for years will be under serious financial stress at this rate of price increase and he will be unable to cope with the payment of his bills as a result of the inflationary trend”.
Speaking specifically as it concerns freight forwarders, Mr. Soleji said that the increase in Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) is not too good for business, he notes that as the Naira losses its value and the rate of the Dollar increases, these make the task of doing business rather arduous and unattractive and that the higher costs are transferred to the final consumer.
Mr. Soleji spoke on the thorny issue of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) valuation and said that though the problem with the jack up of VIN valuation is not the fault of the Nigeria Customs Service as it is a Government policy and of course the obvious effect of the high exchange rate between the naira and the dollar which is a national issue, the only area that they should take the blame is in the area of the critical factor on which the rate is charged, that is the data base. “You recall that when this issue of VIN valuation first came up by the Customs, the freight forwarders protested and there was a meeting at the Customs Training School where the matter was to be thrashed out and a rebate was later given which incidentally is still very high, though there are continuous attempts at finding a lasting solution to the misunderstanding. This VIN valuation regime as it is, is unworkable and unfriendly, it is a policy that will make Nigerians unable to afford a car which is supposed to be a necessity and not luxury, the Government needs to rethink a major aspect of this VIN valuation policy”.
“Now, let’s even ask what the VIN valuation entails, it entails you having all the history of the imported vehicle being inputed into a system in order to give an accurate information as regards the vehicle, now that is alright because all dishonest information are eliminated. The crux of the matter is the rate or the payable duty that you have on such a vehicle. Let us assume that the imported vehicle is a Toyota Forerunner, 2010 model, the VIN valuation as it is now will calculates the amount of tax you will pay on it based on the price that it was bought in 2010 without considering the rate of depreciation, that is totally wrong. Though, I must add that that was the situation until a rebate was given by the Customs because the cost of clearing a vehicle rose to about 300%, we are still asking for a further consideration of the whole rate”.
The experienced freight forwarder indicated that there was no stakeholder engagement before the Government took the decision on the VIN valuation matter as he said that it would have made a world of difference if the government had engaged all stakeholders in the industry before it took the decision. He said in the African parlance ” Someone cannot clap with one hand, and you cannot shave my hair in my absence and so there needs to be good dialogue before policies are formulated for implementation”.
He says that the policy in itself is good, but that the data base on which the duty is paid needs to be adjusted in order that a workable duty may be reached. Mr. Soleji enjoins the government to listen to the cries of the people as they are currently going through tortuous economic and social experiences. He said that they should take decisions that will help economic growth and enhance development so that rather than have Nigerians move in droves out of the country, there will be a reversal in movement with Nigerians in diaspora and indeed citizens of other countries coming to Nigeria to work and live.
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