National Assembly:House Adhoc Committee On Maritime Lambasts Customs And Terminal Operators Over Broken Down Scanners

By Stehen Ubanna

The last may not have been heard about the broken down scanners at the nation’s seaports and why the Nigerian Customs service, NCS, personnel at the seaports, had resorted to physical examination of Containerised cargoes in the last six years. This is because the ministry of Finance, which took over the responsibility of maintaining the scanners  from the  NCS, had failed to do so.

The Value news learnt that six months before Cotecna, SGS and Globalscan Services,  all former service providers, handed over the Operations of the Scanners to the NCS, the ministry of Finance, under ngozi Okonjo –Iweala, then minister of Finance, had awarded the contract for  maintenance of the Scanners to Globalscans,  with the approval of then President Goodluck Jonathan  controlled Federal Executive Council, FEC.

 Many senior Customs Officers were disappointed at the award of the contract to Globalscans to take over the maintenance of the Scanners at the seaports and land border areas against the more experienced foreign firms : Cotecna and SGS but that was how far they could go.

Their fear became pronounced when the Scanners started to broke down one after the other in each of the Commands, thus slowing down the  examination  process , as examination officers which includes both  Customs  and  security agencies personnel to resort to physical examination described as very cumbersome in Customs  circles and time wasting.

The value News had observed the physical examination of a ‘’20’’ feet Container  at Tin-can Island port last month where the  Dockworkers engaged  to unpack the  items in the Container to ensure that what was declared  by the importer on the bill of lading was correct did exactly as directed. The examination Officers were said to watched with keen attention and taken  records  to compare with  the document  submitted  by the importers as the list of the imports.

House Adhoc Committee Members At APMT

The homogenous products had no problem as only one Container could be examined and others allowed to pass based on the integrity of the importer. Convinced that the importer had made the correct declaration, the  examination officers give the nod to the dockworkers t to return the evacuated  items back to the Container while the agent  would be allowed to lock it with his own pack as the seal had been broken in the presence of   all the officers.

Mohammed Abba-Kura, Comptroller, Apapa Command, had told the visiting House of Representatives Adhoc Committee members on Maritime  led  Hon. Yusuf Buba Yakub, and who incidentally , was also the Chairman of Foreign Affairs Committee that even when the canners were functional, the  service trained image analysts were alive to their duties as suspicious  Container were made to go through physical examination because of the infringement.

Pesitige Ossy, a renowned Clearing  agent, and elected member of the House, who is incidentally a member of the Committee, could not under understand while the Customs Authorities or the ministry of Finance could not fix the scanners  over the last six years. He noted that when Cotecna, and service providers were handling the Operations of the Scanners there was nothing like  ‘’ broken down scanners’’. Abba –Kura, the Apapa Area Comptroller, admitted that he benefited from Courses organised by Cotecna, particular , on Risk Management.  He had queried the Customs Authorities: when the service took over the scanners from the service providers which was in good working condition , did it not take over the liabilities?. This may have prompted Yakub, the Maritime Adhoc Committee Chairman, to challenge, Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, NCS,  to fix the scanners without further delay.

Given the anger in the face of the House members that the scanners inherited from the service providers had all broken down or working in bits and fits,  the Apapa Area Comptroller was forced to open up that about two weeks officials of the Contracted Company handling the repairs of the scanners  came to the port to inspect the broken down Containers  in readiness to commence work.

Note that prior to the Adhoc Committee members visit to the Customs Comptroller’s office, who had expressed his ignorance that he was not aware of their  coming as there was no official Communication, they had been taken  on a guided tour of the APM Terminal, regarded as the biggest container terminal in the country, to see things for themselves.

 They were said to have been taken to the site of the broken down Containers which may have equipped the  Lawmakers to confront the Area Comptroller with tough provoking questions  without looking back. They were said to have also been shown the examination bay where Containers were positioned for examination by agents.

In spite of the fact that the scanners at the ports are working in bits and fits, Kayode Daniel, the Company Manager, Government and External Relations, was said to have told those on the second Coaster bus that about 250 Containers, both ‘’20’’ and  ‘’40’’, were examined daily, confirming the brief earlier given the House Adhoc Committee members by the Management. He disclosed that when the scanners wer working, they could effectively scan 200 -250 Containers daily, an indication that the impoact of the broken down Scanners at the ports were not been felt.

 In a related development, Abba-Kura, the Customs Comptroller may have used the opportunity of the House  Committee visit to settle the controversy surrounding the activities of the Presidential Task Force Headed by Yemi Osibajo, the Vice President on Apapa gridlock.

 An aggrieved Comptroller  explained that they have received several complaints  about  the activities of the Task Force  personnel on the road by allegedly extorting money from Association  of Maritime truck  owners, AMATO, drivers. The complaints  was  too much that he was aid to have accompanied one of the agent’s whose client’s hired truck was not on the queue to gain entry into the port to delivery of his Container . He was surprised that no sooner he came out from the task force, he was given the green light to go into the port.

It was not surprising why he  became convinced that the Osibajo led Task Force , which was currently being Coordinated by Comrade Kayode Opeifa , had compromised on their mandate, feuling speculations that importers with their agents who not know anybody at the Task Force office are in trouble.

 Investigation by the Magazine shows that some importers  whose trucks are on the queue  when they eventually gain entry into the port to load their Container could pay as much as N500, 000.00 to the truck owner to take the truck to the destination  depending on the number of weeks it had stayed on the queue. Some of the trucks, according to Association of Maritime Truck Owners, AMATO, sources, could be on the queue  for between two to three weeks .

Recall that Opeifa, the Vice Chairman of the presidential Task Force, had found himself to Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria, MARAN, threatening fie and brine stone for the Association daring and labeling them as allegedly  being Corrupt. He had accused the terminal Operators, NPA and the NCS, of  being responsible for the Apapa gridlock.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *