By Stephen Ubanna
Determined to boost the way of doing business at the nation’s seaports, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, under the close watch of Hameed Ali, a retired army colonel has concluded plans to introduce Webb Tracker Mobile Application, and a simplified standard operating procedure for the use of the scanner equipment that had been distributed to the nation’s seaports.
Given an insider information on the Webb Tracker Application, Joseph Attah, a Comptroller and Customs spokesperson disclosed that importers with their agents who have access to the NCIS II, can ‘’remotely validate their declaration duty payment and more importantly, the status of a particular Consignment or vehicle without coming into contact with Customs personnel at the ports.
The Customs Comptroller, contended that ‘’with this innovation ‘’motorists and owners of other imported goods may no longer have to wait for long period of time for field operatives to confirm the validity of their documents before letting them to go’’. He may have gladdened the heart of the importers with their agents and other industry stakeholders when he asserted that the ‘’Mobile Application can be installed in mobile devices such as phones, tablets, other devices for ease of use.
According to him, the Webb Tracker ‘’enables the use of the vehicle identification number to upload data concerning the type, make and model of all vehicles at the point of declaration with a view to assigning value for payment of appropriate Customs duties’’.
The Customs spokesperson noted that even on the road, ‘’field operatives using the Mobile Application should be able to in real-time, validate any Customs declaration using the vehicle identification number, VIN, and Customs control numbers to ascertain the correct status of vehicles and other Containerised cargoes released or in transit.
There are indications that the Webb Tracker will remove the usual acrimonies associated with the Enforcement activities of the Federal Operations Units, FOUs, Headquarters Strike Force, and Border Drills, Teams, personnel across the country as ‘’it will robustly facilitate the free flow of Compliant trade while checking illegal imports that had Contravened government Fiscal policies.
The simplified Standard Operating Procedure, Attah, the Customs Image maker, had said, ‘’provides clear guidelines on the usage of the scanner equipment that had been distributed to the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tincan Island and the South east port of Onne and Rivers ports. The scanners that will be installed at all entry and exit points across the country are expected to carry out similar functions with those at the seaports.
Going by the new innovation, ‘’all Containers are to be pre-scanned as soon as they are discharged from the vessel,
Declarations, Assessment and payment of duty on the Consignment or vehicle is made by the Declarant when the NICIS II Risk Engine allocates the scanned Containers to the designated Image analyst.
The good news is that ‘’for the Compliant Containers, they must be released from the Customs control which are to be acknowledged exited through the gate. The importers with their agents that may have problem with the new clearing arrangement are those that are said to be involved with fraudulent activities with the intention to shortchange the government.
At Port Harcourt Area II, Onne, Auwal Mohammed, the Area Comptroller, may have prepared for the deployment of scanner equipment at the port for the use of examination of Containers as the image analysts have been trained. Recall, that poor image analysis by Customs personnel was responsible for the destruction of the scanners inherited from the service providers at the seaports in the past.
T Note that, this time around, at the end of each day, the image analysts are expected to release the list of the suspected Containers which must be forwarded to the terminal Operator for proper documentation. Based on the Image analyst report, the Containerised cargo will be positioned by the Terminal Operator for Physical examination at the instance of the declarant.
Attah, the Customs spokesperson, had said that ‘’the Officers on Recheck duty will have the responsibility to examine the suspected Containers and the Examination is submitted to the scanner Manager for further action and final release. There is no gain saying the fact that the released Containers must be acknowledged by the importer’s agent and exited through gate.
Without further delay in the deployment of the distributed scanners for operations, at the seaports, Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, was said to have given approval for ‘’the Launch and implementation of these innovative trade facilitation tools’’. He is optimistic that that the tools will ‘’eliminate the encumbrances currently being experienced by the International trade actors in Nigeria maritime domain.
This may have informed why he has called on the industry stakeholders ‘’to support the service in its drive to deliver Customs best practices to the nation’’. Indeed, there have been jubilation in the agents Camp and praise for Ali and his Management Team since information filtered out about the planned Launching of the Custom Webb Tracker Mobile Application and Standard Operating Procedure for use of the scanners. Agents had described Webb Tracker as a ‘’revolution in the nation’s clearing business ‘’.