By DAPO OLAWUNI
The African Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON) has blamed the Nigeria Customs Service’s lack of maintenance culture as the reason why scanning machines at the port failed to work.
The association in its position paper on the House of Representatives Public Hearing on Scanner Contracts on Monday 24th May 2021, argued that, the problem confronting Nigeria’s modernization of cargo examination process has nothing to do with inability to purchase scanners but poor maintenance culture, lack of transparency and accountability on the path of Customs.
A total of 22 scanners were said to have stopped functioning within a year they were handed over to Customs by the service providers.
The association commended the speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila for conveying the all-important stakeholders’ meeting, saying that this would ensure the enthronement of transparency, performance and development of the Nigeria Maritime business environment.
APFFLON argued that since the Nigerian Customs has proved itself incapable of handling something as sensitive as the operation and maintenance of multi-million scanners, in order to avoid a repeat of history, it is advisable that the proposed scanners which the Federal Government wants to purchase for Customs, are best left in the hands of contracted Destination Inspection agents who will operate and maintain it.
The association argued that proper investigation must be carried out on why the old scanners inherited by the Customs in 2013 from the service providers failed to work
Recall that the three service providers; Cotecna Destination Inspection Limited (CDIL), SGS Nigeria Limited and Global Scan Limited, handed over fully functional scanners to the Customs in 2013, and the scanners were all upgraded to the most current system and certified to be in good condition in accordance with their contract with the Nigerian Government.
DAILY TREND NEWS recalls that part of the terms of the contract of the service providers with the Federal Government is that they would transfer technical know-how to Nigeria Custom Service.
Similarly, the terms also covered maintenance of the scanners in the designated ports. Thirdly, since it was a six (6) year contract, it was agreed that at the seventh (7) years, that Nigeria Customs Service will take over the scanners handling, management and maintenance.
At the end of 2013, the transition process was completed and the service providers handed over to the Nigeria Customs Service.
However, APFFLON hold the House of Representatives that “The purchase of new scanners without any attempt on the part of the government to reach out to the OEM, in order to ascertain if the old scanners can be salvaged proved this. Purchasing a new set of scanners is not the solution; the problems will most likely repeat itself if no individual or agency is held responsible for their maintenance”
“To ensure the efficiency of cargo examination and improve competitiveness, nothing prevents the government from engaging the Original Equipment Manufacturers to repair the previous scanners and put them back in use alongside new ones that may be acquired”
“In a country notorious for sabotaging well-meaning efforts geared towards national development, one must not rule out the possibility of sabotage from within the government agencies”
“This is because physical examination of cargo provides an avenue for officials of the government to extort importers and Customs agents for money and other valuable items in their containers” it stated
The association warned that failure to carry out these investigations would continue to lead to capital flight as a result of cargo diversion to other neighbouring ports.
Other implications highlighted are; Low patronage by cargo owners considering the increasing nature of operational clearance costs in the Nigerian ports.
Delay of cargo clearance because of manual ways of operations in the ports.
APFFLON said that the Federal Government’s intention to procure new set of scanners in the ports should be jettisoned for now.
“We strongly believed it will increase costs and foster the depletion of our hard earned income in the maritime industry. Stakeholders who are in the know would attribute it to wasteful spending that is not devoid of corruption. We should be guided please”