Worried by the incessant server failure witnessed at the Nigerian ports during cargo clearance by importers and their agents, the African Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria, APFFLON has called on the federal government not to renew the contract it has with Webb Fontaine upon the expiration of the current contract which expires in December 2022.
In a petition to the Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President of APFFLON, Otunba Frank Ogunojemite alleged that the inefficiencies of Webb Fontaine has led to consistent server failures at the nation’s seaports amounting to huge economic loss both to the citizenry and the government.
Ogunojemite further alleged that the company’s 16 year management of the customs portal had been characterized by constant server breakdowns which either connotes gross inefficiency or nonchalance work culture by the organization.
He observed that since 2006 when the company began its technical support services for the customs, Nigerian importers had suffered collosal fiscal losses from downtime at every port and terminal in the nation adding that this additional cost led to higher prices (inflation) for imported goods and impoverishing Nigerians while the company suffered no economic loss.
According to him, “Over the years, there has been no sensitization or stakeholders engagement by Webb Fontaine on its operation or any regret or public apology for the losses the importers and other port users subjected to, leaving the aggrieved to blame customs officials and the NCS Management for the server disruptions. It should be notes that Webb Fontaine does not have help desk or contact offices at the ports and terminals rather the company stations its offices at choice locations in cities whereas its services are for ports and terminals.
“Amid the numerous challenges in Nigeria’s system attributable to the company, findings have shown that the Dubai -based company operates a seamless and hitch-free processes in Dubai while subjects Nigeria to gross inefficiency and with this, it is tenable for APFFLON to conclude that the company’s actions were deliberate to sabotage the Nigerian economy. Webb Fontaine was supposed to provide a single window solutions connecting all stakeholders involved in foreign trade allowing them perform from pre-clearance to post- clearance activities but 16 years after, the company has failed to achieve its purpose.
“It should be noted that the relevance of Webb Fontaine becomes questionable with the federal government’s approved e-customs project which makes provision for full automation of customs processes and services. At the African Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria, APFFLON, we would suggest that if the e-customs needs some time to bed in, the contract awarded to Webb Fontaine should be unbundled and awarded to two more companies for competition.”
While referring to the two previous petitions written by the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF and the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA respectively against the inefficiency of the company in the past, the APFFLON boss said, “It is against the above background that APFFLON as one of the stakeholders in the maritime industry with its members spread all Nigerian ports and their clients (importers) have suffered financial losses from the inefficiency and nonchalant handling of Webb Fontaine.
“We hereby demand and recommend that you use the power of your good office to prevail on the Federal Ministry of Finance to erase any possible/further contemplations to renew the contract it entered into with Webb Fontaine for another term upon the expiration of the said contract in December 2022. The company has demonstrated its incompetence in the provision of IT and telecom infrastructure for Nigerian ports and we shall fight against any I’ll motive or agenda of any person (s), be it group, individual or corporate entity that wants to undermine the interest of our dear country for any selfish reason.
“We insist that any contract entered into with the Webb Fontaine will attract serious protest from the practitioners at the Nigerian ports in whom interest of the nation is of utmost concern and this will also without any prejudice to our rights as freight forwarders to seek redress in the court of law.”
Webb Fontaine as the manager of customs digital platforms is responsible for the provision of Information Technology, IT and telecom infrastructure for the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS. This encompasses the delivery of customs management systems nationwide through the Nigeria Customs Integrated System (NICIS II).
Photo: Otunba Frank Ogunojemite, President, APFFLON.
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