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Concerns over new cargo scanners in Apapa ports

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There are concerns about the efficiency of the new scanners in Apapa ports, as the stakeholders throw banters over impact the facility on trade facilitation few weeks after installation.

Some clearing agents have alleged that the facility is slow in operation, thereby delaying clearance of cargoes, while some Customs officers also alleged that the clearing agents are frustrating the scanner by requesting for 100 per cent cargo examination.

However, the National Public Relations Officer, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Timi Bomodi said the stakeholders would need to exercise patient for the scanners to gradually scale into full operations.

Chairman of Wealthy Honey Nigeria Limited, and the acting National President of the Association of the Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Dr. Kayode Farinto, said that scanning machines are a welcomed development at Nigerian ports, but the facility is currently causing delays to cargo clearance due to operational challenges.

He said no well meaning importer or freight forwarder would kick against the activities of scanning machines at the port, adding that this is what operators have been clamouring for.

He however lamented that the use of the scanning machines is causing a lot of delays which causes the freight forwarders to pay demurrages and storage charges which hitherto were not factored into their contractual agreement with their clients.

He said: “A lot of psychotropic substances are entering our ports, it is the scanning machines that would help us to address it. Any freight forwarders kicking against scanners is not a patriotic citizen.

“However, what freight forwarders are saying that most of us have entered a contract of clearance even before the vessel arrives Nigeria. No business man would want storages and demurrages to accrue on their job, this is why freight forwarders are not happy that the scanner is taking too long and they are being discouraged, it’s not as if they don’t want it to operate, customs also needs to be up and doing”

“In Apapa, it takes four to five days to scan containers, Tin Can Port is even better. There is no complaints in Tin Can except in Apapa alone” he said

Farinto urged the management of Nigeria Customs Service to procure more scanning machines, adding that one scanning machine at each of the port is not enough to handle the increased volume of trade coming into the ports

Responding to an allegation that clearing agents are sabotaging the scanners by asking Customs to take Cargoes through 100% physical examinations rather than the intrusive scanners, a prominent freight forwarder, Eugene Nweke has described the allegations by Customs officers as an attempt to further blackmail the professionals.

Nweke, in a letter made available to The Guardian, said the clearing agents cannot dictate for Customs the form of examinations to undertake on Cargoes.

He said: “Operationally, at no time has the system granted any licensed agent the power or right to decide what manner of clearance intervention process his or her cargo will undergo. Whether the cargo will go through red, yellow or blue channel is not within the determinant decision of a licensed agents, as such decisions is solely the core imputed selectivity functions of the NICIS 2 portal of the Nigeria Customs.”

While seeking for more time to get the scanner into full scale operations, Bomodi said: “These guys just started work. Can we give them space to breath first. All these complaints are totally unnecessary at this time. Nobody starts a car and pulls out in full speed. You build up speed.

“Besides, there are still other parties whose job it is to present containers for scanning. It takes time for the team to blend before hitting top speed.”