The Lagos Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI) has berated the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) for clamping down on auto shops nationwide.
In a statement signed by LCCI Director-General, Muda Yusuf, the group regretted the intimidating manner the shops, which is a vital segment of the economy, were closed for three weeks.
He said some of the dealers are leaders in the industry, representing reputable global brands in the country and contribute to tax and customs revenue. He noted that the audit exercise could have been done better by not embarrassing some of them who have been found to be tax compliant
In his words: “There is nothing wrong with an audit exercise; what is not right is the ominous and intimidating manner the exercise was carried out. The premises of the companies were sealed for about three weeks, paralysing their entire operations. We believe that the audit exercise could still be carried out without the sealing up of the business premises of the companies for that length of time.”
Muda said regulatory and enforcement powers should be exercised with due propriety and courtesy. According to him, it is imperative for regulatory and enforcement institutions to extend courtesy to investors in the economy in their quest to validate compliance or otherwise of statutory requirements.
He said: “Investors should not be treated as culpable when infractions have not been proven against them. Verification processes should be done with minimal disruptions to the operations of companies.
Sudden sealing up of companies for about three weeks has profound consequences for businesses such as reputational cost to the company with implications for the goodwill of the company, disruption of business transactions of the company and risk to international and domestic business relations resulting from perception problems created by the sealing up of business premises, especially for dealers of leading global automobile brands.”
He said the action of Customs could cause embarrassment to the management and shareholders of the company with negative signaling effect to investors.
Muda appealed to regulatory and enforcement agencies to demonstrate greater courtesy in their interactions with investors in the economy as they are critical stakeholders creating jobs, generating revenue, and stabilizing the social environment through the engagement of citizens. Hostile regulatory actions are not in consonance with the quest for job creation and poverty reduction he added.
The LCCI chief observed that disputations around valuation and classification of consignments have become issues of concern to the private sector and has assumed a critical dimension creating disruptions and uncertainties in the international trade process.
He appealed to the Presidency in conjunction with the ease of doing business office should come up with a framework for valuation and classification which is fair, equitable, transparent and consistent. He further called for an urgent need for an independent dispute resolution framework to speedily take decisions on disputes arising from valuation and classification of consignments.
He frowned at what he called a disproportionate focus by customs on revenue generation a disposition that is hurting investors and the citizens. He regretted that the drive to meet revenue targets is pushing up the cost of intermediate products and other inputs imported by investors.