FIRS, Nigerian Customs berated over failure of TIN registration

LAGOS-The much talked about Taxpayers Identification Number (TIN) a product of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) which was recently incorporated into the process of clearing goods at the ports by the Nigerian Custom Service; has been generating anxiety among freight forwarders who have described the scheme as a failure due to the epileptic nature of the FIRS registration website.

There was palpable fear among some of the freight forwarders in Lagos earlier this week because they were unable to access the faulty FIRS website and make proper declaration of their consignments waiting to be cleared out of the ports.

It was also gathered there has been an increase in the blocking of practicing licenses belonging to some of the freight forwarders, especially those operating at the Tin Can Island Port, by the Nigerian Custom Service due to non compliance and other sharp practices in goods declaration.

But responding to the development, the Tin Can Island Port Chapter Chairman of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Custom Agents (ANLCA) Mr. Farinto Kayode explained that the clearing agents felt betrayed by the action of the custom because majority of them who are willing to log on to the custom server and make true declarations where unable to do so, due to the failure of the FIRS server which is one of the requirements for true declaration of cargo.

Farinto said that the leadership of the agents has contacted the Assistant Controller General in charge of ASYCUDA of the Nigerian Custom Service, about the failure of the system but that until now the custom have not been able to do anything about the system.

“The FIRS server was not working, they promised to do something about it but up till now 99% of the agents have not been able to register, for them to start blocking licenses now we felt betrayed”

He said that many of the agents were unable to carry out their jobs at the port as a result of the problem and that this has translated into huge loss of revenue for the Federal Government.

“It is not the failure of our members, for people to key into the website of the FIRS it is not working, and we have told the ACG ASYCUDA who said that he is aware of it and that they are going to do something about it, but up till now nothing has been done”

He however begged for more time from the federal Government on the implementation of the TIN number as a tool for the declaration of cargo, saying that the customs should revert back to the old order.

“The way forward is for the custom to revert to the status quo since it is not our fault; the website is not working, so how can people start registering? We are not saying they should suspend TIN, but they should suspend the implementation of saying that they want to use TIN number for declaration of cargo, they should now work on the deference website and make sure it is working” he said.

Explaining how the TIN is supposed to be working at the port, Farinto said that “It is when you are able to access the server and get your TIN number before you can now go to custom server and be able to register, without the TIN number you will not have access to custom server”

He condemned the controversial duty benchmark that recently introduced by the customs saying that the amount usually brought out by customs is ridiculously high.

Farinto vehemently denied the involvement of his members in the practice of Machine outside (MO) and that what is obtainable in the system now is “duty avoidance” which according to him to an extent has legal backing.

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