By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Vice-President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Kayode Farinto, has kicked against suggestions that the Federal Government should concession scanning operations at Nigerian ports to foreign companies.
Speaking with journalists in Lagos yesterday, Farinto who is Chief Executive Officer of Wealthy Honey Investment Limited argued that Nigeria Customs Service officers have been trained and are competent enough to operate scanning machines at the port.
Already, he revealed that the federal government has approved for the procurement of new scanners at Nigerian ports, and that some vested interests are clamouring to bring back private companies under the destination inspection scheme to operate the scanners
The ANLCA Vice President stressed that over 3,000 Customs officers were trained on image analysis and how to operate the scanners prior to customs taking over the machines from service providers with the Pre Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR)
He equally kicked against the government giving the scanners to terminal operators to manage, saying that the terminal operators have not really been sincere with Nigerians and they have proven not to be matured enough to run the scanners, especially with their refusal to obey government directives during the COVID-19.
While reacting to insinuations of Customs officers deliberately frustrating scanning machines for 100% examination, he said the scanning machines inherited by the service were obsolete.
“Federal Government should look at the issue critically on three grounds, which include security, moralty and economy of the nation”
“On security, it will be too dangerous to leave manning of scanning machines in the hands of foreigners, I remember some years back when some arms and ammunition were discovered in Nigeria. It was narrowed down to some foreigners”
“If you allow foreigners to man our machines, the security implications of it won’t be too good for Nigeria as a country.”
“Customs officers have been trained to man scanning operations to be able to know or discover if there is discrepancy during cargo clearance.
“We should be patriotic not to allow foreigners to take the machines over because some people want to collect a percentage from foreigners and they will now say give it to foreigners. It is not too good”
“However, it can be done in this way, allow Customs officers to operate the scanning machines but when it comes to technical maintenance that is if we do not have indigenous Engineers who can service the machines, you can now bring in experts abroad”
“But Nigeria has risen to the level where I know that we can produce indigenous Engineers who can maintain our scanning machines.”
Farinto said that politicians are lobbying the Federal Government and clamouring that the scanning machines should be given to foreigners, not minding that this would jeopardise the 1% commission acruable to Nigeria Customs under the Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS)
This is a percentage of money that is given back to Customs annually in whatever they generate from manning the scanners.
“Giving it to foreigners will not do us any good in terms of security. In terms of economy implications, you will agree with me when pre-arrival assessment report was introduced, I remember then that the ex -Customs CG was compensated.
“Now if you’re bringing in these scanning machines, I also know that one per cent supposed to be given back to Nigeria Customs Service.
“When you are now bringing in experts from abroad, definitely, the one per cent goes to them.
“Don’t forget these people will want to repatriate the money to their countries, which does not do our economy any good not even now that we have COVID-19.
“But if you’re giving it to Customs, they can employ and do what we called moral boosting by either increasing the salary of the officers.
“The scanning machine should not be given to the foreigners because we will be shooting ourselves on the foot if we do that.”
Farinto, who is also an activist, vowed that once the new scanners have been deployed to the ports, freight forwarders would checkmate the customs to ensure that they put it to use.