By Christiana Ekpa
The House of Representatives Thursday mandated its Committee on Customs and Excise to investigate the era of scanners in Nigeria, the contracts, management, cancellations, re-awards, and operations which led to the total collapse of the multimillion dollar scanners in all the sea ports and border stations and report to back within six weeks for further legislative action.
The House also urged the Federal Government to provide viable scanners for Nigerian Ports and Boarder Stations, and in the process, involve relevant stakeholder such as the Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigeria Ports Authority from inception of negotiation.
These resolutions followed the adoption of a motion on: ‘’Need to Investigate the Lack of Transparency in the Transfer of Technical Know-How from Cotecna Destination Inspection Limited to Global Scan Systems Limited,’’ sponsored by Leke Abejide.
Moving the motion, Abejide noted that the Committee on Customs and Excise embarked on a week–long oversight of Zone A of the Nigeria Customs Service Command to ascertain the level of revenue generation and also to find out their challenges in order to find a way of addressing them through Customs budget of 2021.
He said the Committee undertook visit to all Commands and discovered anomalies that if not tackled, the Nigerian Ports would remain at the risk of imminent collapse.
The lawmaker said was appalled at the non-functional scanners rotting away at the Ports which were meant to detect arms and ammunitions concealed in containerized cargoes.
He expressed worries that with physical examination, importers’ containers spend weeks at the nation’s seaports over delayed clearance, such that other containers now spend months to be cleared due to the delay.
Abejide said has no doubt increased cost for importers, estimated to run into millions as businesses pay rent to terminal operators and demurrage to shipping companies for not clearing their goods within a specified time as a result of slow and cumbersome nature of manual inspection of containers at the seaports.
Recalled that: ‘’In 2006, Nigeria acquired cargo scanners worth more than $120 Million USD, and retained the service providers on build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) terms. The contract also provided that the service providers were to provide training services and technical support to the Nigeria Custom Service on risk management, valuation and classification. By the end of 2013, the transition process from Cotecna, SGS Scanning Nigeria Limited, and Global Scan Systems Nigeria Limited, the former service providers, were completed and the scanners handed over to the Nigeria Customs Service;
‘’The modernization in the Nigeria Customs did not last very long, as a year after the handover, the scanners had stopped functioning and Nigerian ports and borders were once again returned to the analogue era of 100 percent physical examination. The scanners which were installed at various Customs operational locations such as Tin Can Island Port, Apapa, Port Harcourt Area One Command, Onne Port, Kano, Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Seme and Idi-lroko borders, Port Harcourt and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airports, among others are today littered with non-functioning scanners, an indication that the service providers might have handed over faulty scanners to the customs.
‘’There are lots of intricacies and perplexities in the transfer of scanners from the original manufacturers Smith Detection/Cotecna Destination Inspection Ltd to Global Scan Systems Ltd which led to the total collapse of the multimillion Dollar scanners which, according to the Committee’s findings are better in standard than the scanners in the Port of Doha Qatar. If the scanners were properly maintained using the right technical know–how, they would have served Nigeria for 30 years.’’