The Senate has blocked the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) from implementing its proposed plan to collect duties on old and new vehicles in the country.
The resolution of the upper legislative chamber followed a Point of Order, raised by the Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Na’Allah.
Adopting the motion, the Senate said the status quo should be maintained until the Comptroller-General of NCS, Hameed Ali appears before the relevant committees to explain the rationale behind the policy.
The NCS, had in a statement issued last week urged car owners who were yet to pay Customs duty to do so between. Car owners are expected to comply between March 13 and April 12, 2017.
“All persons in possession of such vehicles should take advantage of the grace period to pay appropriate dues on them, as there will be an aggressive anti -smuggling operation to seize as well as prosecute owners of such smuggled vehicles after the deadline of April 12.
“For the avoidance of doubt, all private car owners who are not sure of the authenticity of their vehicle’s Customs documents can also approach the zonal offices to verify with a view to complying with the provision of the law,” a statement by the acting spokesman, Joseph Atta read in part.
However, at Tuesday plenary, Senate President Bukola Saraki, said the directive contravenes the law and will therefore not stand.
“It is very clear that this circular does not meet the requirement of the law. The Customs Committee should quickly look into this matter and come out with a way forward,” he noted.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu called on lawmakers to resist the new directive by NCS. He said the directive is not only illegal but lacks common sense.
The Deputy Senate President added that the policy was retrogressive, saying that punishments cannot be melted out over an action taken years ago.
Ekweremadu said: “Just last week, one of our colleagues raised a motion in respect people that bought bags of rice and some tins of groundnut oil taken to their houses and Customs came into those houses, harassed them and took away those items on the pretence that appropriate Customs duties were not paid or they were prohibited materials.
“Today, we have been inundated with again another development, where cars bought many years ago are been asked from car owners or are been asked to come back and show Customs papers or pay appropriate Customs duties.
“Let me also say that we share the concerns of the Customs boss on raising revenue to run our country but unfortunately, it cannot be at the expense of common sense and illegality.
“Government is run on the principles of checks and balances. It is our responsibility to call the executive to order where recklessness is introduced in governance of any country and I believe that our constitution is clear on who does what at any time.
“Not even the National Assembly itself can impose punishment on crime that was committed years ago. It cannot happen. If we cannot do that, the Customs cannot do that either. What they are doing is totally unacceptable and we must say no to it.”
Senate President referred the issue to the Senate committee on Customs and Excise. He mandated the committee to act quickly. No time frame within which the committee is to report back was given by Saraki.