House to Investigate Viability of Scanners at Seaports, Border Stations

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By Udora Orizu

The House of Representatives has directed its Committee on Customs and Excise (CCE) to investigate the total collapse of the multimillion dollar scanners in all the sea ports and border stations in the country and report to back within six weeks for further legislative actions.

The committee would also investigate duration of the scanners in Nigeria and the contracts associated to them, their management, cancellations, re–awards and operations.

The House also urged the federal government to provide viable scanners for Nigerian ports and boarder stations.

It also advised the government to involve relevant stakeholders such as the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) from the inception of negotiations on matters concerning the provision scanners.

The resolution followed the adoption of a motion on the ‘’Need to Investigate the Lack of Transparency in the Transfer of Technical Know-How from Cotecna Destination Inspection Limited to Global Scan Systems Limited,’’ which was sponsored by Hon. Leke Abejide.

Abejide noted that the CCE should embark on a week–long oversight of Zone A of the NCS to ascertain its level of revenue generation and challenges in order to find a way of addressing them through the NCS’s 2021 budget.

He said that the committee visited to all the commands of the NCS and discovered anomalies that would lead to the collapse of the Nigerian ports if they are not tackled. The lawmaker said that he was appalled at the sight of non-functional scanners that were meant to detect arms and ammunition concealed in containerised cargoes rotten away in the ports.

He was also worried that the process of physical examination is delaying containers for weeks and months at the nation’s seaports due to sluggish clearance procedures.

This development, according to him, has increased the cost of importation of goods into the country in millions of Naira as businesses pay rent to terminal operators and demurrage to shipping companies for not clearing their goods within a specified period due to the slow and cumbersome nature of manual inspection of containers at the seaports.

Abejide said: ‘’In 2006, Nigeria acquired cargo scanners worth more than $120 million and retained the service providers on build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) terms. The contract also provided that the service providers were to provide training services and technical support to the NCS on risk management, valuation and classification. By the end of 2013, the transition process from Cotecna, SGS Scanning Nigeria Limited, and Global Scan Systems Nigeria Limited, the former service providers, were completed and the scanners were handed over to the NCS.

‘’But the intended modernisation in the NCS did not last long. The scanners stopped functioning a year after the handover and Nigerian ports and borders were once again returned to the analogue era of 100 per cent physical examination.

“Various customs operational locations such as Tin Can Island Port, Apapa Port, Port Harcourt Area One Command and Onne Port, as well as Kano, Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Seme and Idi-lroko borders, Port Harcourt and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airports, among others are today littered with non-functioning scanners, an indication that the service providers might have handed over faulty scanners to the customs.’’

The lawmaker noted that there were lots of intricacies and perplexities in the transfer of scanners from the original manufacturers Smith Detection/Cotecna Destination Inspection Ltd to Global Scan Systems Ltd which led to the total collapse of the multimillion dollar scanners which the committee’s findings revealed are better in standard than the scanners in the Port of Doha Qatar.

He said that the scanners would have served Nigeria for 30 years if they were properly maintained using the right technical know–how.