Importers operating at the Tin-Can Island ports of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) have incurred huge surcharges from shipping companies and terminal operators as the Nigeria Customs Integration System (NICIS2) server is experiencing operational difficulties.
This server failure which has crippled business activities at the Tin-Can Island port would lead to huge demurrage and storage charges for importers as processes of documentation for Customs clearance by clearing agents have remained very difficult.
The Tin-Can Island Port is the second busiest seaports in Nigeria after Apapa. The port has five terminal operators with different concessioning agreements.
Under the NICIS 2 platform, importers and clearing agents are expected to process their clearance documents right from the confines of their homes and offices, this was designed to reduce the level of crowd trooping into Nigerian ports and various Customs commands.
One of the clearing agents at Tin Can Island Port, Mr Adebowale Dare alleged that the server failure was deliberately caused by customs officers because the on-line platform has reduced physical contact at the command.
According to him, the server failure for the past two weeks has ensured that clearing agents visit the customs processing centre (CPC) popularly called “longroom” to generate their clearance documents.
He said “We can be trying to capture a job for a whole day and the Customs website would be failing, you won’t be able to generate assessment, even if you succeeded in generating assessment and capture your job, you wont be able to generate C number.”
“If you are unable to generate C number, you cannot printout the assessment, you would now be forced to go to the Customs long room before they can generate it for you.”
“Under normal circumstances, they told us that we can generate assessment and capture jobs right from our offices, but now we are unable to generate “C” number but I believe Customs deliberately caused this problem.
“It has been happening for the past two weeks. If you cannot generate C number, the demurrage would be accumulating” he said.
However, the Tin Can Island Command of Customs has debunked these allegations of bribery and deliberately frustrating the NICIS2 platform.
Also speaking, Chukwudi Daniel said he has been unable to clear his importers cargoes for the past one week.
According to him, he has done several capturing but the system has refused to come up thereby making his client invite huge demurrage charges from shipping company and storage charges from terminal operator.
He said, “The customs server has been down for up to a week and something is yet to be done about it. Customs is not showing enough concern and my clients are accruing demurrage and storage charges on daily basis. They must do something,” he said.
Speaking, the Public Relations Officer of the command, Mr. Uche Ejesieme confirmed the server failure even as he said that the Customs server was being managed by Webfontaine in partnership with Interswitch, these two companies are technical partners to Nigeria Customs Service.
Ejesieme lamented that the command was also losing revenue to the server failures and that she is more concerned even more than the operators.
Ejesieme said, “On the issue of server failure, kindly note that the technical hitches are usually being handled by Webfontaine in partnership with Interswitch.They are those contracted by government to provide technical assistance for our NICIS2 operations.
“We have a good working relationship with the technical providers, to the extent that once we receive reports from stakeholders about difficulties in their e-transactions, we immediately get in touch with the technical team for resolution.
“Don’t also forget that each time there is server failure, it also affects our revenue and so, we are even more worried than the stakeholders.
“Even as we regret the inconvenience which the situation may have caused all of us, I would like to assure us that the situation is being handled by the technical team,” Ejesieme assured.
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