The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has described the calls in some quarters for the return of the pre-shipment inspection agents otherwise known as service providers as irresponsible and unpatriotic.
The National President of NAGAFF, Chief Increase Uche who made this assertion in an interview with our correspondent in Lagos recently noted that a number of service providers had been tried after the port concession of 2006 even as he admitted that they tried their best but at the appropriate time, at the expiration of their tenure, the contract was cancelled which paved way for customs to fully take position in managing the destination inspection regime that was already in place.
Uche observed that for anyone to come back now to request or campaign for them to stage a comeback was not the best for the economy, the country and this current era that every country of the world was perfecting their logistics supply chain to remove some of the hindrances and disturbances that normally elongate the chain.
“So, right now, NAGAFF will not be in support of any proposal that the service providers should stage a comeback, it is not proper, it is not to the best of the economy and they are not going to add any value. Customs should take responsibility now unless, the only area that might be considered, customs is creating a unit that will be responsible for such services under the customs management, that again could be considered.
“But for any arrangement to concession any group or a company to resume activities as service providers, it will simply amount to creating jobs for the boys, that is just planning on how to syphon money unnecessarily. I know some of the politicians might be arranging or planning to get that done but looking at the current situation in our general supply chain, government must jettison that. It is not acceptable at all”, he said.
On argument that cargo clearance was seamless during the time service providers held sway at the ports, he said, “I was a good follower of the antecedents of the service providers and then the remark that they created a seamless clearance procedure as at the time they were saddled with the responsibility as service providers, I beg to disagree with that. Why we were agitating that the contract be cancelled was the fact the Risk Assessment Report (RAR) that they were generating was meant to be advisory, it was not really helping to remove the barriers and hindrances that posed obstructions on the system as at that time from 2006 to 2012 their operation lasted. And we were at the forefront during the campaign to get the contract cancelled.
“What actually happened was first, the real target of the service providers was to grab the 1% CISS which they were being paid on FOB for providing those services. Their function as at that time to manage the scanners, actually, they tried their best, to some extent, I must commend them. But at the expiration of their contract, the scanners were then handed over to the Nigeria Customs with the notion that they have trained enough customs officers that will take over, unfortunately, that wasn’t there.
“The Nigeria Customs Service recovered the scanners but before then, it was not that Uhuru. Most times, the scanning machines will broke down, most times, they brought out blurred images that will even lead to repositioning the containers for physical examination. There are times the scanners will dictate an object that is not very clear. So, it was not that their operations were quite seamless, there were some teething problems. There were some disturbances here and there that actually marred the credit that would have been apportioned to them.
“So, customs inherited the machines apparently in good order. We assumed that the machines were in good order when customs inherited them from them. But the unfortunate thing is that customs on their own started pretending that the machines were bad completely, so, at a stage, they have to pack up those machines, nobody showed interest anymore. But what the machines helped the system to achieve was the profiling of cargoes at that time. The risk level of cargoes was properly done then, that was the one I will agree that was seamless.”
The NAGAFF boss while admitting that the takeover by customs of the service providers’ role helped government to save the 1% CISS on FOB, he added that it was an advantage to government that they were saving that money now while customs continued to provide the services that the service providers were rendering.
“So, for anyone to advise the government, unless they want to create food for the boys, is like taking us back to the era of 1970 when the entire system is digitalized now. Of course, if you look at the entire scenario now, use of scanners for customs examination in seaports anywhere in the world is no more fanciful, it is outdated. What is in place now is the use of RFID – Radio Frequency Identification Device. It is simpler, it is easier, it is cheaper and it doesn’t require much hands. Once the cargo lands at the seaport, the only thing that is required is that the microchips or the tag is fired into the container; the tag will be reading the content or the make of that particular item and will be sending the message to the central collection point. The tracking of whatever is the content of that consignment will be made by the system automatically. And it has been there for a very long time”, he further explained.
On why nobody is talking about RFID since it is the trend now, Uche pointed out that, “That is what NAGAFF is now telling government, that for anyone to advise us to go back to the era of scanner, the person is deceiving government, he is not advising government properly. So, whether it is politicians or jobbers at the seaport or within the industry, government shouldn’t listen to such advice for now. Go to port of Antwerp, go to Rotterdam, go to other various ports of the world, that is what is en vogue now.
“And Nigeria, because of our peculiar environment, we can also adopt block chain technology. It also helps to track the content of a shipment right from the manufacturer’s warehouse and ensure that the content of that very cargo or the make is not altered. International Cargo Tracking Note is another thing the government should equally be looking at and not being deceived by rent seekers.
“So, there is need that before government takes any action or decision concerning the return the service providers or the concession of scanners, that industry stakeholders, government experts in the industry need to be assembled, let us advise government and of course, NAGAFF is putting up a position paper to this effect.”
Photo: National President of NAGAFF, Chief Increase Uche.
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