Stakeholders in the Nigerian maritime industry and port users have bemoaned the failure by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to provide scanners at the nation’s seaports to facilitate ease of clearing goods despite the promise made by the Comptroller General of the NCS, Col Hameed Alli (Rtd) in February 2017.
The NCS boss had during an inspection tour of the ports in Lagos, February, 2017, promised that cargo scanners would be provided in the first quarter of 2018.
Specifically, he had said: “New cargo scanners to arrive in Nigeria next year. The new scanners would arrive the ports by the first quarter of 2018, to make cargo examination easier, faster & Surer.”
Responding to stakeholders’ demand for the audit of N9.2 billion scanners at the ports, the CGC had noted that: “After examining the scanners, only two can be immediately repaired and put to use, but the others will be repaired over time.”
At another forum on October 4, 2017, the CGC again promised, saying: “Hopefully, before a couple of months from now, we will have scanners at the ports.”
However, three years after his first promise, no single scanner has been acquired by the NCS, fueling speculation that the NCS boss’ promise was just a political statement.
Some Customs agents who are at the receiving end of lack of scanners at the port told THISDAY that the development was hindering trade facilitation and fuels corruption.
The National Publicity Secretary of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Adumaza Joe Sanni, said customs agents are bemused about the development.
“How can one explain the fact that it is no rocket science to enter into a Public Private Partnership (PPP) to procure, install and train Customs officers on the use of digitalised, tropicalised and rugged industrial scanners to facilitate trade across International borders and ensure the security of lives and property?
“When scanners were in operation at our ports and border stations, managed by Cotecna, SGS, Globascan, Bureau Veritas, etc, a deliberate and conscious effort was not made for the eventuality of the extinction of the contract, and to deliberately prepare NCS personnel to manage, maintain, repair and, source for spares parts of the scanners.
“Some conspiracy theories postulated that Customs never wanted the scanners to work in the first place, and therefore they deliberately guided it to the non-functional states they are now, for reasons best known to them, “he said.
A maritime expert Mr. Lucky Amiwero, blamed poor organisation and low capacity development for slow pace of maritime industry growth making Nigerian ports less competitive
Amiwero, who is the President of National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), decried the poor state of the scanners in the nation’s seaports adding that unlike in the past, scanners in the nation’s seaports, airports and international borders were no longer functional.
Meanwhile, THISDAY checks revealed that the last time the ports had functioning scanners was in 2013, when the contract of three service providers contracted by the federal government to manage scanners expired.
The three service providers were awarded a seven-year contract that commenced in January 2006 to supply cargo scanning machines on a build, own, operate and transfer basis (BOOT) as well as train NCS officers on risk management, valuation and classification.
As the seven-year contract expired in January 2013, many operators in the maritime industry had expressed concern over the preparedness of the NCS to take over the DI scheme and effectively operate the scanning machines, despite Customs assurance that it was ready to take over.