Senate intervenes in $120m deficient scanners
The Nigerian Senate may soon take a decisive action on the $120 million scanners that are currently rotting away at the ports.The Guardian gathered that the Senate Committee on Customs and Excise Duties, has launched a scoop into the possibility of restoring the electronic scanners at the ports.
Cargo scanners allow for easy detection of contrabands and promote efficient inspection of consignment and clearance. This digital technology will also contribute immensely to the ease of doing business at the seaports.
Investigations showed that all the scanners in the Nigerian ports, which were transferred to the Nigeria Customs Service in 2014/2015, have all collapsed with attendant negative effects including serious security threat as a result of physical/manual inspection on containers, prolonged cargo delays, and the payment of rent and demurrage by importer/licensed Customs Agents.
Given the malfunctioning of the scanners, Nigerian ports are now compelled to contend with issues of safety and security, with recent developments indicating that the nation’s points of entry, particularly the seaports, are not well monitored to guard against the influx of arms and ammunitions, and some unwholesome goods.
According to The Guardian source, the Senate Committee, for about three weeks, had invited some stakeholders in the maritime sector to probe into the abandonment of the scanners and possibility of getting new ones.
It was learnt that the Senate might jettison its initial plan of making the Federal Government purchase new scanners, going by the submissions by the operators during the hearing.
“The Senate actually has a different version but I have told them that there is a need to re-audit the scanners and upgrade them to suit our purpose. The scanners are not old ones. Scanners do not expire; we have a lot of them all over the world. The only thing they do is to get them upgraded. Our scanners were supplied new. None of them is old. They packed up because the transfer from the operators to Customs was not done legally,” the source said.
The poor state of the scanners has aided smuggling of contrabands as well as arms and ammunitions into the country in recent times. The Customs had in January, seized 661 pieces of pump action rifles, which were found in 49 boxes and concealed in a container load of steel doors. Another consignment, containing 440 pieces of assorted pump action riffles, concealed inside a 40- foot container carrying POP powder used for design of houses was also intercepted at Tin Can port few weeks ago.
The Executive Director, SIFAX Haulage & Logistics Limited, Henry Ajetunmobi, recalled that SIFAX Group had recently enjoined the Federal Government to concession scanning services at all the seaports to aid smooth verification and clearance of cargoes.
Ajetunmobi said there was a need for the government to deepen the involvement of the private sector in Nigeria’s transportation industry in order to improve the level of efficiency in the sector.
“Of utmost importance is the scanning service. Most scanners at the ports are either completely broken down or functioning well below installed capacity.“This situation has subjected the Nigerian Customs Service and other agencies to 100 per cent examination of cargoes, which does not only waste time, but also more favourable to the smugglers, too. We have waited anxiously for the scanners and it is not forthcoming. I want the government to consider concessioning the scanning service to investors as this will really make the port reform system more efficient,” he said.
The Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali, agreed that lack of scanners at the ports is a major setback to their operations, promising to restore them in a matter of weeks, which has not yet happened.
The scanners were contracted and supplied on a build-operate- own- and-Transfer (BOOT) agreement as a national project under the Federal Ministry of Finance. No sooner were the scanners transferred to the Nigeria Customs Service in 2014/2015, the facilities became non-functional and eventually abandoned.