By Eromosele Abiodun
The federal government has been urged to compel the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to provide scanners at the nation’s sea ports so as to facilitate trade and enhance the ease of doing business.
Speaking at maritime stakeholders’ forum in Lagos, the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman, appealed to the federal government to urgently intervene on the need for the NCS to acquire scanners to facilitate cargo clearance at the nation’s ports.
She lamented that lack of cargo scanners at the ports was one of the major challenges impeding the federal government policy on the ease of doing business.
The NPA boss decried the current situation where cargo examination at the ports is being conducted 100 per cent manually by Customs thereby delaying clearance.
“As a result of the absence of scanners in our seaports, all cargoes that comes into Nigeria are examined physically. You can imagine the huge tonnage of cargo that comes into our ports and that tonnage is being examined physically by all agencies of government. Automatically, that translates to congestion.
“I will like the minister to intervene for the Customs to deploy these scanners at our ports so that we can have fast inspection of cargo at our ports and all the information from the scanning can be sent to all agencies. I don’t know how it is possible for Customs to say they physically examine all the containers. There is no way that would facilitate ease of doing business,” she added.
Bala-Usman, also raised concern over the refusal of customs to auction seized cargoes, which she noted have taken over available space at the terminals.
She said: “There is also the concern of overtime cargo. I will like you (Minister) to intervene on this matter to draw the attention of the Nigeria Customs to facilitate the auction of cargo. We have huge volume of overtime cargo in our ports. The last time auction was done was in 2015 and we have written severally to Nigeria Customs.
“We have mentioned the need for us to move the containers out of the terminal into Ikorodu. What we have told them is that there is a provision for on-the-spot auction, so you can go and auction on the spot. We need to facilitate that because the terminals are full, there is no space. So that is a big challenge for us and we would like you to intervene.”
On the issue of the diversion of Nigeria-bound cargoes to the ports of neighbouring countries, Bala-Usman said: “Items that are banned or have high tariff like vehicles, rice are the ones that are usually diverted and smuggled through the land border because it is difficult to smuggle items through the seaport.”
…Appoints New ACG
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has promoted Yusuf Bashar , a Comptroller of Customs to the rank of Acting Assistant Comptroller General (ACG).
Confirming this to THISDAY, Customs Public Relations Officer, Joseph Attah, said Bashar would be in charge of the Information Communication Technology – Modernisation Unit of the service headquarters.
According to Attah, “Bashar is taking over from Benjamin Aber, an Assistant Comptroller General who is proceeding on retirement. Bashar has close to two decades experience in the heart of Customs ICT operations from stages of Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) , ASYCUDA ++, Pre Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) and ongoing Nigeria Customs Information System ( NICIS) was a Comptroller in the PAAR Ruling Centre .
“He had served as Customs Area Controller of Tin Can Island Port between 2016 and 2018 and earned four commendation letters from the Controller General of Customs, Col Hameed Ali for various outstanding feats. He achieved increased revenue collection, strict anti- smuggling enforcement, trade facilitation and promoted ease of doing lawful business without compromising national security.”
This, he added, earned the command, under him, an award from the World Customs Organisation (WCO)
He added: “Under his watch, Tin Can Customs deployed ICT cargo profiling that resulted in the discovery of concealed pump action rifles at different times totalling 2010 various units of weaponry. His command Intercepted large quantity of cocaine substance with the street value of N3 billion concealed as a chemical called virgin cellulose
“He coordinated interception of two sport utility vehicles(SUVs) stolen from the United States of America and these were later handed over to the INTERPOL for repatriation to the owners. Bashar was overseeing the conception and development of different NCS Modernization and ICT development drive from the Initial Zuma program of capacity building blocks and the automation of all payment and taxes to ensure transparency of service delivery.”