How faulty scanners at seaports expose Nigerians to imports risk


ABIOLA Seun      |      

The interception of 661 pieces of pump action Rifles by the Operative of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) A, Ikeja of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in January, 2017 has exposed many dangers of lack of scanners at Nigerian ports.

The seaports and land borders have been without scanners for so many years thereby exposing the country to danger, sub-standard products and unregulated drugs importation into the country.
Recall that the FOU, A Ikeja of the service had intercepted a truck load of pump – action rifles allegedly imported from ChiIkej

According to the CGC, the contraband which was imported from China but routed through Turkey enroute Nigeria contained 49 boxes with a total number of 661 pieces of pump action Rifles. 

He said, “On Sunday 22nd January 2017, the roving team of the NCS Federal Operations Unit while on information patrol intercepted a Mack truck with registration number BDG 265 XG conveying a 1x40ft container with number: PONU/825914/3 along Mile 2 Apapa road.”

“The truck was immediately taken to the premises of FOU A, Ikeja where physical examination revealed 49 boxes containing a total number of 661 pieces of pump action Rifles concealed with steel doors and other merchandise goods.”

But, investigation by our correspondent had shown that this was not the first time the FOU A, Ikeja was intercepting  goods that have been cleared at the seaports.

Last year, the service had raided a warehouse in Lagos where furniture which was also on import prohibition list was imported  and cleared through the Lagos Seaport into the country were seized.

Also, it was believed that uncustoms consignments were able to leave the port undetected because of the non availability of scanning machines that would have detected what was in the container.

According to maritime experts,  busy ports like Apapa and Tin Can, need four functional scanners each in other to handle containers coming to the ports but the reverse is the  case as the busiest ports in Nigeria – Tin Can, Apapa ports – have only two scanners each with only one at Apapa port working below 40% capacity.

Investigations revealed that the only scanner working at Apapa ports works for few hours and is given many hours to cool off before it is put back to work. 

Lack of functioning scanners had made Nigerian ports a very stressful place to do business.

Stakeholders in maritime industry have frowned at the state of scanners at the port saying it is not ideal and has frequently caused delays in goods clearance.

Further investigation also revealed that due to non functional scanners  at the two major ports, Apapa and Tin Can,100 percent examination had to be done on containers by officers of the service, thereby slowing down trade and increasing chances of importing contraband and illegal products such as arms and prohibited items.

It was also discovered during investigation that officers who may not have the patience to conduct examination on all containers most time embark on random sampling of the containers at ports.

A clearing agent who craved anonymity because of fear of being witch-hunted, told our correspondent that importers can import 20 containers of the same product, Customs officers can conduct examination on five leaving the other 15.

He said, “Due to the stressful nature on physical examination and its time consuming nature, Officers can ask that only five of the fifteen containers be opened leaving the remaining 15 unchecked  and if the five opened are not suspected, he assumed the rest are also ‘clean’,” he said.

However, aside non facilitation of trade, the absence of workable scanners could lead to importation of substandard, arms, ammunition and contraband into the country undetected.

Stakeholders have also expressed dismay over non functional scanners at the Lagos Ports adding that two scanners were ordinarily insufficient to handle the number of cargoes being discharged at the Apapa and Tin Can ports let alone not having a functional one.

Speaking on the state of the scanner, the President, Shippers Association of Lagos State (SALS), Rev. Jonathan Nicol said the only existing scanner at Apapa port could barely scan 150 containers daily.

He however asked the management of the Customs Service to fix the faulty scanners at the ports.

Nicol said, “There is no reason the NCS cannot change all the scanners at Nigerian ports. The scanners presently in use at the Lagos ports are those that were purchased by the private companies, which previously handled our clearing process.

“Those scanners are old; with the number of cargoes coming through the Lagos ports, we need not less than four scanners each at the Apapa and Tin Can ports. These will ensure that a minimum of 400 containers are cleared daily.“

The Founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr Boniface Aniebonam also urged the management of Customs to put in place necessary infrastructure for officers and men of the service to discharge their duties diligently. 

He noted that if the scanners at ports are functional, the cache of arms would have been detected, instead of being intercepted on the road.

He said, “The CG of Customs should rather create an enabling environment for officers and also work in line with mandate set aside for them by the government such as provision of scanning machines in all the Seaports, airports and land borders to aid officers and men of service to perform optimally”.

Aniebonam further acknowledged that non-availability of scanners at the ports would also not facilitate trade and also expose the country to dangerous goods.

© 2018, maritimemag. All rights reserved.

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