Following the launch of Cargo Tracking System for use by the Nigeria Customs Service by a service provider, Webb Fontaine, the Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria, APFFLON has accused the company of hijacking a function ceded to the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NSC by the federal government.
The Federal Government has earlier before now ceded the responsibility of running Cargo Tracking Note which hitherto was being run by the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA to the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, an agency under the Federal Ministry of Transportation.
However, it was reported recently that Webb Fontaine had put up Cargo Tracking System for customs and trade automation with a pilot scheme in Apapa port.
According to the report, the Operations Manager, Webb Fontaine, Vlad Ionescu said the feat which is a breakthrough and major milestone in NCS modernisation drive would aid online, real-time and live monitoring containers within controlled areas in the customs zone at the port and outside of the port.
Ionescu noted that anomalies such as containers missing in transit, tampering with the seal, broaching and removal of cargo before the examination can be easily detected and traced using the technology. This, he said, would also change the narrative that neighbouring countries like Benin Republic are ahead of Nigeria in areas of customs and ports aided automation.
Reacting to the development, the President of APFFLON, Otunba Frank Ogunojemite observed that he was surprised to read the development in news having been aware that it was the Nigerian Shippers’ Council that was saddled with the responsibility of overseeing the Cargo Tracking Note.
While maintaining that he could not ascertain the veracity of the report, he suggested that the piece of news should be verified and clarified in order not to misinform the stakeholders in the maritime industry.
Wondering if the company was doing this in collaboration with the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Ogunojemite who recalled that APFFLON had a pending petition against Webb Fontaine at the National Assembly over its poor performance in the subsisting contract with the Nigeria Customs Service , wondered if this new development could be a new contract to the company by the Service.
“Is there any other contract between Webb Fontaine and the Nigeria Customs Service? I am seeking to know if Webb Fontaine has taken over the Nigerian Shippers’ Council responsibility and why should Webb Fontaine take over despite their records of inefficiency in her previous contract with the Service. It needs to be sanctioned rather than given another contract to handle.
“There was a petition we sent to the National Assembly and we had a meeting about two months ago where APFFLON was invited alongside the management of Webb Fontaine by the leadership of the National Assembly. We were supposed to continue the sitting in the National Assembly over our petition.
“So, I am now wondering, what has happened that Webb Fontaine now handles Cargo Tracking System. Besides that, does that mean that there’s no modernization of the Nigeria Customs Service again? And if there is, are they part of the Customs modernization team that we heard about? We are confused, we need clarification on this.
“We need clarification and if it is additional task for Webb Fontaine when it has not handled the one it is handling efficiently, then, it doest not worth it . Let there be stakeholders’ engagement. If Webb Fontaine should go on with this, what is the purpose of modernization of customs? Where are we? The issue is confusing and I need you people to clarify this. It is an issue I think we should critically work on”, he said.
When reminded that the Cargo Tracking Note as envisioned by the NSC may differ from that put up by Webb Fontaine, he argued that, “Cargo Tracking Note and Cargo Tracking System are the same thing. It is the monitoring of container from origin to destination and the purpose of that is to know when a container leaves the port, to ascertain the content of the container, its movement and to prevent theft so as to verify that the duty payable for the container is in tandem with its content and to prevent wrong declaration. So, it is the same thing.
“The only difference is that that of Webb Fontaine begins and ends in this country while that being proposed by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council emanates from the point of origin down to the country.”
Photo: Otunba Frank Ogunojemite, President, APFFLON.
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