By DAPO OLAWUNI
Even as importers and clearing agents continue to lament delay in cargo clearance at Nigerian ports due to absence of scanning machines, National President of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Tony Iju Nwabunike has called on the Federal Government to return to the era of destination inspection and bring back the service providers.
DAILY TREND NEWS recalls there were three destination inspection service providers managing the scanning machines at Nigerian ports, they are; Globalscan, SGS, and COTECNA.
However, the operation was hijacked by the Nigerian Customs Service in December 2013 when it commenced implementationof the Pre Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) under the then Comptroller General, Inde Dikko Abdullahi
Speaking in an interview recently, the ANLCA President lamented that since the Customs took over operations of the scanning machines, its operations have been epileptic. He called on the Federal government to sign another contract for the scanning machines to be managed by a competent firm.
He said “Nigeria has a way of going one step forward and take steps backward. I remember when COCTENA, SGS and Globalscan were in the ports, they have all their scanners working very effectively. But today, Federal Government say we should support the Nigerian Customs Service to do Pre-arrival Assessment Report (PAAR).
“Today, they assess the consignments and the documents, they do the examination and give the appropriate duty for you pay but they are doing manual examinations because there is no scanner. We are asking Federal Government to do one thing, the scanner needs to be given as a contract, given to a particular or seasoned company that will bring in the scanners, manage the scanners for five years without cost to the government”
“They should have their percentage on every little container they actually examined, they will have their cuts. And changing of the scanner should not be more than five years lifespan”
“So, that should be independent of Customs who are not well detailed of using the scanner so that the scanner will be mounted in the whole Nigerian ports. Hire a particular company who are going to be in charge of these scanners and bring in expertees who are going to work on that, all what they need do is to scan the consignment, bring the result and give the Customs for assessment”
“The scanner is very important. If we have scanners in the port, it will eliminate time factor, eliminate the troubles of bringing down the containers. Look at today, it is raining all through, how can one bring down the containers of perishable goods and do examination in this weather? It is not going to be possible. If you have a scanner, the container will run through the scanner and everything will be very glaring” he said
Nwabunike also lamented the absence of container holding bay by shipping companies in Nigeria. He said that most times, vessels come into Nigeria with large volumes of containers, but on the return voyage, they go back empty.
He stressed the need for Federal Government through Nigerian Shippers Council, and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to make it compulsory for vessels to depart from Nigeria with the same number of empty containers, equivalent of what they have brought in.
“Why should a vessel of Maersk line come into this country with 350 containers and leave empty without taking a single empty container? And the following morning, another vessel will come, putting another 400 containers and leave empty. And they now go to our neigbouring countries like Ghana, Cameroun and all the rest of them and carry their empty containers back to their foreign countries and using Nigeria as a dumping ground of empty containers”
“They don’t even want to have a holding bay, they don’t even want to put any single money on ground to have a place where they can put the containers and take them back after, because they know that nobody supervises their activities, Because they are not answerable to any government agencies”
“I remember when NPA was NPA; they will never dare to take containers to this place and not taking the same number of containers out of the country. Why not give them that mandatory idea that the moment you are coming into this country, you take the same number of containers out of this country”
“And you know the funniest thing; most of those foreign countries, shipping companies have gotten very top and big Nigerians as their chairmen. So what it means it that if you take them to the national assembly, they will go there, sort themselves out and come back and continue doing what they want to do. So they have become bigger than the government”