The unsavory consequences of the absence of scanners at the Nigerian ports resurfaced last week when a container laden with dangerous weapons and military camouflage uniforms was “flown” out of Apapa port in the full glare of security agencies at the ports. these agencies include, Department of security services (DSS), Port health, Nigeria customs service (NCS), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) security, Port Police, Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine service (NAQS) and Nigeria Immigrations Service (NIS). these are the ones allowed to operate inside the ports.
there are still others insistent on operating in the ports despite being barred. they include Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) among others. besides, there are other security operatives who still patrol outside the ports. In spite of all this number of security operatives, a 40-foot container of such magnitude disappeared from the ports and scaled through all the checkpoints mounted by this hordes of security men and women.
Already, the commissioner of Police, Lagos Ports Command, Celestine Okoye, has directed his detectives to trace the location of the missing container and arrest both the importer and others connected with the importation within 24 hours. the search for the container which came on the heels of wanton killings in the country by suspected herdsmen and kidnappers dressed in military camouflage has placed both the police and custom officials on ac ollision course after CP Okoye vowed to get to the root of the matter. Angered by this sudden disappearance, stakeholders have called for a probe into the issue insisting that the container did not fly out of the ports but was cleared by appropriate authorities. An importer, Mr Eddy Akwaeze did not agree that the container flew out of the port. he said that the container is owned by high profile members of the society. he said the container was not examined. people are serving their pockets, he said. ‘Somebody somewhere planned the exit of the container.They know what happened.Nobody is serving Nigeria.people are serving their villages and tribes’ he said. Another Importer who spoke on condition of anonymity said that apart from calling for the installation of scanners in the ports, the Controller General of Customs’ compliance team or what is now called strikeforce, should be strengthened.
President, Merchant Navy Engineers, Mr Matthew Alalade,described the incident as a serious and dangerous arrangement among security officials. he wondered how a container of such magnitude could get missing in the port without being detected especially at a time like this when there is insecurity in the country and national election is approaching. He noted that all these are happening because of lack of jobs and called on the government to provide jobs for the people because if people are engaged,crime would be minimized. He also cited the ban of 41 items that took away jobs from many Nigerians as partly responsible for crime. However, he called for a quick fix of scanners in the ports. ‘These are the ones that we heard. What about many others that we did not hear? While the government is trying to prevent crime, many people are trying to circumvent the law’ he said. Recall that since all scanners in the ports broke down over two years ago,little efforts are being made by the authorities to replace them. The absence of the machine, no doubt, is the reason for the preponderance of weapon interceptions in the ports. Unarguably, some Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) officials or Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) officials are frustrating the efforts of the government to install the facility in the ports because they are benefiting from the absence of it. several stakeholders have harped on the need to install the machines but the Federal Government has equally given flimsy excuses on why it is not possible or not immediately available for use.
Nation President of National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, has emphasized that before any positive impact will be made in Nigerian ports in regard to cargo clearance, broken-down scanners at the ports must be evaluated and repaired. In a letter:”The breakdown of scanners at the ports and a need to evaluate it for possible repairs”, addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari in February 2017, Amiwero pointed out that the fixed scanners are still very new due to the dates of installation and commencement of operation. :The mobile scanners, HiScan, are within six to eight years old, and are still operational and acceptable internationally”, he explained. Speaking as a member of the reconstituted Presidential Task Force on the Reform of the Nigeria Customs Service(NCS) 2010, and as a member of the Presidential committee of Destination Inspection, DI, (1999/2006), the National President of NCMDLCA, noted that the acquisition of the scanner was contracted under the DI scheme between the Federal Government of Nigeria and Cotecna Inspection Limited, Society General de Surveillance, SGS and Global Scan Systems Limited on a build, own, operate and transfer, BOOT, basis for a period of seven years from January 1,2006 to December 31,2012, which was extended by one year by the Federal Government.
Beside Amiwero, Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs and Excise, Hope Uzodinma has on different forums, stated the importance of having scanners in the ports. Fielding questions on why scanners have not been installed in the ports, the Controller General of Nigeria Customs (CGC), Colonel Hameed Ali (retd), said that scanners are not bought off the shelf. It has to be ordered for and specification given to the manufacturers before the company will manufacture. For more than four years now, the ports have been operating without the facility.
(check out list of items banned by Nigeria Customs here)
(official site of NCS here)
Culled from The Sun Newspaper