Scanners: NAGAFF Chieftain, Ajuzie faults calls for return of service providers at seaports


A chieftain of the National Association Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Fred Ajuzie has faulted calls by some stakeholders at the nation’s seaport for the return of the service providers whose contracts were terminated in 2014 by the federal government.

Ajuzie who made his outright rejection of the calls known in an interview with Primetime Reporters in Lagos on Tuesday queried the rationale behind the calls even as he wondered what placed the former service providers in a better standing than the officials of the Nigeria Customs Service in terms of manning the scanners at the seaports.

He said, “If you seek my opinion, service providers, were they doing it better before their contracts were terminated and now the customs decides to do it themselves? Because they were not doing it right, customs knows it all. Customs determines anything about cargo, customs is the owner of the port, without customs making a move in terms of cargo, no cargo can leave the port without the customs. And customs have gone ahead to train officers about the scanners, I believe that may be because the government is not supporting customs the way it should, customs cannot do it on their own, there must be a budget for it.

“When the former Comptroller General, Dikko, was there, things were different. Every government has a way of doing things. This is the fifth year of this government, probably; they have plans on what to do about the scanners. I agree that the scanners at the ports have broken down, they needed to be repaired or new ones procured but I cannot subscribe that the former service providers, that COTECNA and others should come back, to come do what? COTECNA is not customs officers.”

On the claims that the scanners were functional and better managed under the service providers’ regime at the port than they were under the control of the customs and that examination of cargoes was seamless, Ajuzie who was a two time Chairman of NAGAFF in Apapa chapter said, “I was NAGAFF Chairman then when the service providers were there, I saw their efficiency and their deficiency. It was customs officers that were doing the job then and something prompted customs to decide to take over from them because they were sabotaging customs in order to do their job. But certain people cannot come to override those who are the original people doing the work.

“Customs determines duty; they are only service providers to customs. It is just like the Webb Fontaine is service provider to customs in terms of system management but are they not having failures? We spent a number of days without server, tomorrow, if customs decides to take over this aspect of service, they will say that are better off, because they were not doing what they were doing right.

“All the systems that the former service providers came up with were all dilapidated, they were all bad because they were supposed to be changed. Customs have personnel; the only thing customs lacks is training and retraining which is common with civil service. People are retiring, new blood are being injected. In fact, the new crop of customs from 2009 who are widely computer literate can do more if they are equipped the way they should.

“I disagree with anyone who is suggesting that service providers should come back, to come and do what? Customs is trying even with a very poor remuneration being given to them, they are still trying raising revenue irrespective of the fact that scanners are not working. There is physical examination going on at the port, it is even better than scanning because that is where you determine exactly, scanner is a machine, what machine see and what the human eyes see, are they the same thing? Machine only detects faults, then you have to still bring down the container to find out what exactly is there.”

He observed that one of the constraints that the customs was having was that the concessionaires were not providing enough services to customs to do their job.

“Go to the terminals and see what is happening.  APMT, do they have any forklift to do examination? They don’t have it; customs are using their hands to offload cargoes from the containers. Let all these people provide enough equipment for customs to do the proper thing.

“Secondly, government should fund customs in terms of getting new scanning machines. When they started, scanners were doing 200 to 250 on daily basis but today, would that happen? Scanners are not good, one fixed scanner at Apapa port and one mobile scanner is bad. Does Apapa port which is the biggest port in the whole of West Africa supposed to have one scanner? There should be about four fixed scanners and three mobile scanners in order to have efficient process.

“Customs have trained officers to man scanners and those officers are ready, they are on ground. They are not even doing scanning work again, those officers trained to man the scanners, imaging and analysis, what they are doing now is physical examination”, he submitted.

On the planned concession of the revenue function of the customs, Ajuzie who is also the Managing Director of Pat-Fuze Nigeria Limited queried, “Where does it happen in other parts of the world? In US and in Europe, is it not customs that is collecting their revenue? Customs collecting revenue is not about banking, we have e-banking, e-revenue, anything that the customs is doing now is through e-payment.

“In fact, Nigeria customs is trying even at this point that they were not better equipped. Any target you set for them, they surpass the target, so, I don’t see any weakness in customs in terms of revenue collection. I am a freight forwarder, I have been in this business for over thirty years, I can tell you that there are lots of improvements, although there are still some rooms for improvement. Customs have tightened up all the loopholes for revenues not to miss.

“So, anybody that is clamouring for a private firm to come and take over to collect revenue for customs should know that there will be a lot of revenue loss because they will add their own corruption there. I agree that there might be cases of revenue loss here and there but customs is doing a great job.”

Photo: Former Chairman, NAGAFF, Apapa chapter, Dr. Fred Ajuzie.

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