The Federal Government has increased import duties by as much as 22.24 percent, a development that may worsen the inflationary trend in the country.

The increase, the third this year, is expected to drive the cost of clearing a 40-foot container from N7.3 million to N8.9 million.

However, the development is not unconnected to the depreciation of the Naira, as the naira value of the imports rose astronomically affecting the import duty component.

However, the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Adewale Adeniyi, said that the Customs was not aware of the development until it was communicated by the Ministry of Finance, adding that the NCS only carry out the   directive of government.

Adeniyi, who was represented by the Customs Area Comptroller, CAC, of Tin-can Island Command, Dera Nnadi, said that the Service is not oblivious of what await importers, adding that the agency will maximize its service delivery and work on clearing cargoes as soon as paper works are completed.

He said: “I recognize the import of this exchange rate particularly when it is done without prior notice on trade.

“Before I came here, I addressed freight forwarders; we recognise what the Nigerian business community is going through but there is little we can do about fiscal and monetary policies. Our role is to implement them.

“But we align ourselves with government policies because every decision taken is for the collective interest of the nation and I expect that we all abide by it. 

“What I said we should do as Customs which I have told the freight forwarders and clearing agents is that to mitigate the impact of what they are going to go through in the next few days, we will maximize our service delivery by ensuring that importers do not incur demurrage and associated costs.”

Reacting to the development, the National Vice President of the Association Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Segun Oduntan, said that there was nothing anybody can do about it but only to appeal to the government to assist Nigerians in the area of transportation by pegging the duty rate on buses and transport vehicles at zero duty.

Also reacting, the Secretary General of the Association of Concerned Freight Forwarders of Nigeria, Jonny Ubaka, said the development will result in higher inflation.

According to him, “We just woke up this morning to find out that the exchange rate has been jerked up and it has also jerked up the N7.3 million that we use to pay for clearing a 1×40 container to N8.9 million.

“The official exchange rate is now N952 to a dollar. Customs will not consider when and how much an importer bought his/her goods. Any file that gets to Customs today, they will use the new rate. The effect is that the economy will be affected and the cost of such goods will also go up.

“Imagine where N1.6 million is added to the cost of clearing goods at the port, the masses will also suffer because the importer has no option than to add it up to the cost of the goods and the prices at the point of buying it will also go up,” he noted.

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