Scanner for cargo examination for the Apapa command of the Nigeria Customs Service is yet to arrive five months after Tin-Can Island and Onne command received theirs, BUSINESSinsiderng has learnt.
Physical examination of cargo is a process whereby goods have to be unstuffed from the containers and trucks where customs officers will physically examine the goods, whereas electronically, if that same container or truck passes through a scanner, in a matter of five minutes, the monitor of the scanner will indicate whether there is concealment.
Recall that the Zonal Coordinator of Customs, Zone A, ACG Modupe Aremu, in September said scanners will arrive Apapa port, Tin-Can Island and Apapa command.
Aremu said that the arrival and deployment of the scanners in Apapa, Tincan and Onne port would help strengthen the fight against smugglers.
However, despite the assurance by the Customs boss, it was gathered that the nation’s premier port, Apapa port, still conduct 100 percent examination on cargoes.
A visit to the examination bay of APM Terminal, Apapa on Wednesday showed that Customs officers were seen supervising dockworkers as they unstuff fully loaded containers physically thereby increasing the dwell time of cargo at the seaports.
A source had, however, stated that they ate yet to get scanners at Apap command saying all cargoes go through 100 percent cargo examination.
The source frown at scanners not available in the port despite being the premier port that generate abiut 50 percent of Customs revenue yearly.
“Apapa Customs will generate more if scanners are deployed, we can’t have a premier port and we still conduct 100 percent cargo examination. I hope the promise won’t be audio promise, ” the source said.
However, stakeholders have bemoaned 100 percent examination of cargoes in the ports saying it induced corruption, and attitudinal factors that impede smooth clearing processes and ease of doing business.
They said these lead to huge loss of revenue to the Federal Government, Nigerian Customs Service and private operators.
Industry stakeholders have also expressed worry that in the 21st century, Nigeria still engages in physical examination of goods entering and exiting the ports as well as border stations.
They argued that lack of scanners cost the nation over N800 billion monthly and about N9.6 trillion yearly.
While appearing before a House of Representatives committee, the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), said the unavailability of scanners at the ports was making it difficult to monitor all the goods imported into the country and that once the scanners are available, smuggling would be reduced to the ‘barest minimum.’
Ali said, “To be frank, apart from vehicle smuggling, most of the smuggling —evasion of duties — happens at the port because we do not have scanners and which means we cannot inspect every container and know the content.
“With due respect to stakeholders, most of our traders in conjunction with the clearing agents always try to devalue the goods that are imported and therefore reducing the percentage. But if we have scanners, that will help us tremendously to be able to reduce to the barest minimum the extent of smuggling because when you have a company bringing 50 containers, you hardly can inspect all those and also, we are mindful of the ease of doing business.”