By DAPO OLAWUNI
There are indications that the Nigeria Customs Integration System (NICIS2) is experiencing operational difficulties at the Tin Can Island Port, even as operators have raised an alarm that cargo clearance is now being endangered.
Findings by DAILY TREND NEWS showed that, for the past two weeks, operators trying to process their documents for Customs clearance purposes were unsuccessful and could not access the platform due to the server failure.
Under the NICIS 2 platform, importers and clearing agents are expected to process their clearance documents right from the confines of their homes and offices, this was designed to reduce the level of crowd trooping into Nigerian ports.
One of the clearing agents at Tin Can Island Port alleged that the server failure was deliberately caused by customs officers because the online platform has reduced physical contact at the command and they needed to continue receiving bribes from operators.
According to him, the server failure for the past two weeks has ensured that clearing agents visit the customs processing centre (CPC) popularly called “longroom” to bribe officers with N2000 so as to generate their clearance documents.
Speaking, he said “We can be trying to capture a job for a whole day and the Customs website would be failing, you won’t be able to generate accessment,
even if you succeeded in generating accessment and capture your job, you wont be able to generate C number”
“If you are unable to generate C number, you cannot printout the accessment,
you would now be forced to go to the Customs long room to spend N2000 at the TS office before they can generate it for you, this is another act of fraud”
“Under normal circumstances, they told us that we can generate accessment and capture jobs right from our offices, but now we are unable to generate C number because Customs deliberately caused this problem so that people at the TS office can generate money”
“It has been happening for the past two weeks. If you cannot generate C number, the demurrage would be accumulating” he said
However, the Tin Can Island Command of Customs has debunked these allegations of bribery and deliberately frustrating the NICIS2 platform.
Spokesman of the command, Mr. Uche Ejesieme told DAILY TREND NEWS that the Customs server was being managed by Webfontaine in partnership with Interswitch, these two companies are technical partners to Nigeria Customs Service.
Ejesieme lamented that the command was also losing revenue to the server failures and that she is more concerned even more than the operators.
He challenged any operator with allegations of extortion to channel their complaints through the command’s help desk, assuring that such complaints would not be swept aside.
Ejesieme said “On the issue of server failure, kindly note that the technical hitches are usually being handled by Webfontaine in partnership with Interswitch.They are those contracted by government to provide technical assistance for our NICIS2 operations”
“We have a good working relationship with the technical providers, to the extent that once we recieve reports from stakeholders about difficulties in their e-transactions, we immediately get in touch with the technical team for resolution”
“Dont also forget that each time there is server failure, it also affects our revenue and so, we are even more worried than the stakeholders”
“Even as we regret the inconvenience which the situation may have caused all of us, I would like to assure us that the situation is being handled by the technical team” Ejesieme assured