The Nigeria Customs Service says is set to take over the control of its trade digital platform from Webb Fontaine, the service’s Information, Communication and Technology(ICT) contractor.
Speaking at an public investigative hearing at the National Assembly, Comptroller Kingsley Chukwuemeka, the Controller in charge of ICT and Modernisation at the Customs headquarters, Abuja stated that the continual but steady system failure and downtime experienced by importers who often ignorantly blame Customs has called for serious concern especially against the background of customer service relationship management.
He asserted that it is frustrating the NCS efforts at meeting its set target, hence they want to take over the platform and administer the management.
Compt Chukwuemeka, who was speaking before the House Committee Chairman on Customs and Excise, Hon. Leke Abejide-led Committee of the House, added that it was a waste of time and resources, continuing to maintain the contract with Webb Fontaine.
The Comptroller complained that Webb Fontaine neither delivered quality ICT services, nor gave satisfactory training to Customs personnel under the contract, entered on its behalf by the Federal Ministry of Finance at the instance of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Compt. Chukwuemeka explained that his table was filled with complaints of service failures and down-time, from Comptrollers of Area Commands, who have frustrated importers. These frustrations made importers to blame the Customs for their woes, which in turn frustrate government’s efforts to make more money.
He lamented that “if you go to my table now, it is filled with complaints. We want to takeover operations and ownership,”
“Webb Fontaine has been training our officers to take over, but training is not satisfactory,” he averred.
In his response, the Managing Director of Webb Fontaine, Mr. Ope Babalola, said they were aware of all the complaints by Customs, but argued that the problems were not as allegedly exaggerated at the investigative hearing.
“We have found reports of down-time strange because, that has not been our experience”, he claimed.
Babalola said that they had engineers on ground who attended to all issues at all levels, as they arise.
“Whenever there are issues, we always respond as quick as possible,” he said, adding that, “we have site support engineers, and we have trained NCS officers to work with them.”
Responding, Chairman of the Committee, Leke Abejide, said that the problem has become worrisome as he complained that often there was no access to the website, and that when it was even accessed, it would immediately suffer collapse to the detriment of the importers.
Hon. Abejide frowned at the situation in which complaints by importers that they were losing money due to delays in accessing the website has no solution since nobody refunded them the money they lost.