By Stephen Ubanna
This is not the best of time for the Area Comptrollers at the nation’s seaports of Onne, Rivers port and Tincan Island where the three non-intrusive scanners purchased by the government from the Asian country of China were installed in late September, 2021. `
This is because Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, who appears to have been under intense pressure from higher Authorities to ensure that the Customs N4.1 trillion revenue target for the 2022, fiscal year are met has focused his attention on the ports to ensure that they take advantage of the scanners to double their inspections.
He has every reason to give special attention to the three seaports to ensure that the Customs Commands make good use of the new technology to fasten the inspection and assist Customs personnel to open Containers and do the physical inspection as they are doing now without creating more problems at the port but improve the Commands revenue collections. The Area commands were said to have given their yearly targets from the N4. 1 trillion over all target of the service including the ad-hoc Teams.
The Customs boss is desperate to raise the N4.1 trillion at cost as even the Headquarters Strike Force, across the country, haven given targets. Take for instance, the Headquarters Strike Force Team A,under the close watch of Mohammed Yusuf, a deputy Comptroller, was said to have been given a yearly target of N24 m billion or weekly target of N500 million including performing its primary assignment which is anti-smuggling. This may be a difficulta task for him as he was generated only about 55 billion in the first week of taking over of taking over from Ahmadu Shuaibu, a Deputy Comptroller and former Head of the Strike Force Team A and N155 billion in the second week. His presence at Tin can Island Command on Thursday, March 3, 2022, to see Comptroller OLoyode, speaks volume.
Informed sources told The Value News the Customs Comptroller General had beamed his search light on the Area controllers controlling the major seaports who were said to have been given double of their 2021 revenue target, particular the Commands, where the three scanners procured by the service from the Asian country of China late last September and installed the Onne port, which has Comptroller Awwal Mohammed , as the Area Controller, Port Harcourt Area II, controlling port and CComptroller Adekunle Oloyede, the Area comptroller, Tincan Island Command, overseeing the Tincan Island port. Given the scanner facilities had been idle the two ports where it was installed late September may have informed why the Customs Authorities had to upgrade it in readiness for deployment for use.
Ali, the Customs Comptroller General who appears to be desperate to ensure that the Customs Commands meet their weekly and monthly revenue targets without any bottleneck may have seen that the scanners installed at the Onne, Rivers port, Port Harcourt, and Tin can Island ports in their present form would not serve the desired purpose to fasttract the inspection of Containers that he had reached the over sea suppliers on the need to installsoftware and subsytems of the scanners in a bid to make more efficient.
The Custom Comptroller General had said that ‘’consequent on the arrival of the three units mobile scargo scanners on September 16, 2021, at Onne port and September 20, 21, at Ti-can Island port, respectively, ‘’the software and subsystems have been installed on the three scanners, meaning that it has been upgraded . The Customs boss may have sent a message to the affected Area Comptrollers, whose officers have been initially trained on how to operate the old scanners before it was upgraded that they have no cause to worry.
Hear him: ‘’the hands-on training of the NCS officers on the functional role of the upgraded scanners have been completed. Informed sources told The Value News that a ‘’new standard operating procedure have also been developed to enhance the business process and promote trade facilitation at the ports’. This may have informed why the Customs helmsman had directed that there should be a sensitization meeting on the new standard operating procedure for the Non –Intrusive technology between the Customs, terminal operators importers, clearing agents and other industry stakeholders. The sensitization meeting on the operation of the new technology was said to have taken place at Onne Command on Tuesday, March 8, 2022.
The upgraded scanner technology sensitization meeting for Apapa and Tin can Island Command Command was said to have been slated on Thursday, March 10, 2022 at the Apapa Command , which has Comptroller Malanta Yusuf as the Area controller.
An insider informed The Value News that a memo alerting the Area Comptrollers of the Sensization Campaign on the new standard operation procedure, SOP, was released from the Comptroller General’s office on Monday March 7, 2022.
Recall that the Federal Executive Council, FEC, had approved $18.12 million, for the prurchase of the three scanners for Onne, Rivers port, PortHarcourt and Tin can Island port in 2018, to fast tract port operations while N3.255 billion was approved for the Local Component of the scanners, inclusive of five percent VAT .
In placing the orders for the scanners which contract was initially approved by the Council in 2018, Hajia Zainab Ahmed, minister of Finance,Budget and National Planning had said that ‘’it will help ease activities of the Customs and the Inspection agents as well as reduce delays that has caused operational challenges at ports.
The worry of many was why scanners that were installed at the three ports amidst celebration in September 2021, without being put to use for one day could be upgraded in less than one year. This is where Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, has to tell Nigerians whe the software and the subsystem that had been be installed in the scanners that had been idle since September 16, 2021 and now, were not in the scanners when the contractor that the contract supplied the items to their respective seaports. This is where the National Assembly Committee on Customs have to step in to investigate what went wrong with the three scanners that were supplied last September.