By DAPO OLAWUNI
Following the Federal Executive Council (FEC) award of contract for the modernisation of the Nigeria Customs Service to a foreign firm; Messers E-Customs HC Project Limited at an approved sum of $3.1billion for a period of 20-years, Vice President of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Dr Kayode Farinto has described it as a way of mortgaging the future of Nigerians through the back door.
Recall that Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed announced recently that the main objective of the contract is to completely automate every aspect of the customs business and institutionalize the use of smart and emerging technologies to enhance the statutory function of the NCS in the area of revenue generation.
But speaking exclusively with DAILY TREND NEWS on Wednesday, Dr Farinto said the whole contract is shrouded in secrecy and it should be resisted by maritime stakeholders.
He noted that already, the former Comptroller General of Customs, Dikko Inde Abdulahi had commenced the modernisation of the service and that government should follow the existing blueprint he created.
The ANLCA Vice President called for a review of the modernisation contract, saying that government has already awarded a contract for the purchase of scanning machines which is yet to arrive the port.
He said that with the arrival of scanners, the modernisation of customs has commenced already, all that needs to be done is strengthening of the Pre Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) ruling centre in Abuja.
“I have said this several times that we are having a situation whereby we may be mortgaging our future through the back door.
The so called contract is shrouded in secrecy, we dont know the details of the MoU, the only thing we heard is that the contract is going to last 20years, this is not ideal”
“Even if there is going to be a contract like that, it ought to be for three to four years for a start, and with a proviso that if you do not deliver, the contract would be terminated, but now that you have issued a contract for 20years, somebody is playing with the devil”
“The contract is shrouded in secrecy and as Nigerians we need to know the details, and as a stakeholder, we need to know what is embedded in the contract, we would not just say because FEC approved it then its okay, the problem with our government is that they carry out decisions without stakeholders inputs, and this is why they dont succeed.
The contract must be reviewed”
“Few months ago, the federal government awarded a contract for purchase of scanning machines, the efficiency of any customs organization is the availability of scanning machines, if the scanning machines arrive in the next few months, it is a pointer to the fact that automation of Customs procedure has began, so why are you now giving the contract to another outsider?”
“The registration of the company is not even known, everything was done hurriedly and packaged hurriedly.
Dikko started modernisation of Customs, there is a blueprint for it and I expected them to continue following that blueprint” he said
Farinto said that already, the administration of PAAR has stabilised. He said the only challenge is that customs have subjected it to become advisory, and this is why every officer would query PAAR and extort clearing agents and importers.
Speaking further, he said “In the PAAR ruling centre, there is risk department, there is valuation unit, before a PAAR is issued for every commodity, it goes through these procedures, what we should have done is to strengthen our PAAR to be in conformation with international best practices, if there would be discrepancy, maybe it would be on quantity, not description of cargo, nobody should query the PAAR”
“But Customs would be telling you that the PAAR is advisory, this is making a caricature of a very good project, the project has saved us a lot of money that we would have been giving to pre-shipment inspection agents in 1% CISS”
“What the customs management needs to do is to reorganise the PAAR ruling centre, see how effective the PAAR can be and its acceptability, then make it sacrosanct, after this, they would now strengthen the post clearance audit to do the needful by exhuming the dead bodies that are not well buried” he said
The FEC had said that the Customs modernization contract is not costing the federal government one thing, but that the 3.1 billion dollars being proposed will be sourced by the sponsors and the partners.