Editor's PickEditorialHeadlines CUSTOMS NEW AUTOMATION PLATFORM (NICIS 2): So nice but still challenged. By maritimemag July 16, 2018 ShareTweet 0 Early last year, Nigeria Customs Service introduced an enhanced form of automation platform for trade facilitation called Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System II(NICIS 2) The system is an upgrade of ASYCUDA++ which is meant to automate clearing process and enhance trade facilitation. Powered by Web Fontaine, NICIS 2 automation platform stands out among the previous Customs automation platforms such as ASYCUDA 2.1, 2.7 and ASYCUDA ++. Apart from being managed by Customs officers themselves, the platform has increased automation which incorporates modules for e- manifest, e-payment, e- form ‘M’ and PAAR. Unlike the previous automation platforms, the NICIS 2 has greater ability to interface with other government agencies which can interact with the Customs and importers. The unique feature of this platform is that it seeks to reduce human contacts, enhance revenue generation and plug revenue loopholes. Nigeriamaritime360.com is excited by this innovative system by the Customs which will not only accelerate cargo clearance procedures but eliminate human contacts which has been source of corruption in the service and conduit pipes through which money is siphoned into private pockets. Since the pilot scheme of the project commenced at Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, it has since been adopted by all the Commands in Lilypond pond, Tin-Can Island, Apapa and recently, Murtala Muhammed International Airport Command. We are delighted by the impact and transformation which this new automation system has so far had on the cargo clearance procedures and revenue profiles of the commands hooked to the platform. This is however despite the teething problems associated with such a novel idea. We want to commend the Customs top hierarchy led by the Comptroller-General, Hameed Ali for its vision and will power to change the narrative in customs operations. An importer or his agent, in the comfort of his office, can make his declaration, get his assessment done, pay the duties which automatically triggers release of his goods if there are no issues of under declaration or concealment. Even, he does not have to run after examination officers if the goods is routed to physical examination as names of examinations officers are automatically triggered. Furthermore, it is supposed to reduce the number of government agencies in the ports as the system will alert agencies involved or needed for an examination rather than the situation where many are unnecessarily clustered in the port. Despite the issue of server breakdown and other minor hiccups, the new automation system is a big boost to customs operations and Cargo clearance procedures at the port. However, the only snag in the system is the issue of lack of scanners at the ports. We are worried that this issue may clog the wheel of operational efficiency of the system. Under the automation system, about 80 percent of the cargoes are routed to scanning. In Apapa port, which is the premier port that controls more than 60 percent of imports into the country , only one scanner is functional out of the three stationed there. According to the Apapa Customs Command, only 20 containers are scanned daily by this only scanner and they do six hours each day from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm which translates to 120 containers per day. This therefore leaves high stacking of containers waiting to be scanned. As if this is not worrisome, the command then appeals to Web Fontaine and the technical committee of customs on NICIS to re-route most of these stranded containers, put at a daily average of 200 ,to physical examination. To us, this infrastructural gap has robbed off on gains ofthe new system. We are even more worried by lack of commitment from Customs or federal government to do something quickly about this problem. We are more concerned than amused by the discordant tunes coming out from Customs over this problem. The Customs Zonal Coordinator, Zone A in Lagos, ACG Aminu Dahiru , at one of his public functions, was quoted as saying that the onus of providing scanners lies on terminal operators though later retracted. In another breath, Nkiru Nwala, the Public Relations Officer of the Apapa Customs said it was the responsibility of government to provide the scanners and not that of Customs . Yet, the service inherited those scanners bequeathed on them by the defunct service providers. We urged the government to as a matter of urgency either repair the faulty scanners or provide new ones. Resorting to physical examination of goods that are routed to scanning due to lack of scanning machines is an absurdity and a way of filtering away the gains of the new automation system. This lapse will entrench human contacts and engender corruption, the very vices the NICIS 2 seeks to eliminate. The Customs Authority should also look at the issue of Technical Supervisors (TS)who are empowered to resolve any query under the system but who are being accused of playing tin gods at their respective commands due to the concentration of power residing with them. We urge the Customs Authority to decentralise their power to curb abuse. This platform also wish to warn the Customs hierarchy of sabotage of this laudable system by unscrupulous elements who may be uncomfortable with its high level of automation that reduces their contact with clearing agents and eliminate the avenue to make money. We believe the new customs automation system is a laudable project which will substantially facilitate trade, quicken cargo delivery process and enhance revenue collection. However, to maximise its potentials, the identified infrastructural gaps should be plugged while the system be constantly improved upon for optimal efficiency. © 2018, maritimemag. All rights reserved.