The efficiency of the new cargo scanners in Apapa ports has been put into question as stakeholders throw tantrums over the efficacy of the cargo scanners and its effect on trade facilitation a few weeks after installation. Some clearing agents claim that the facility operation is slow, thereby resulting in delays in clearing cargo, while some Customs officers also alleged that the clearing agents are frustrating the scanner by requesting 100 percent cargo examination.
Months ago, the cargo scanners were deployed by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in a sequel to stakeholders’ uproar, particularly clearing agents and importers, on the issue of congestion at the ports. It was then further deployed to Apapa, Tin-Can, and Onne seaports to expedite port services and the shipping of goods. However, the National Public Relations Officer, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Timi Bomodi, urges the stakeholders to be patient while the scanners are progressively put into service.
Slow operation of the scanners causes freight forwarders to pay more charges.
Chairman of Wealthy Honey Nigeria Limited, and the acting National President of the Association of the Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Dr. Kayode Farinto, acknowledges that scanning machines are a welcomed development at Nigerian ports, but the facility is currently causing delays in cargo clearance due to operational challenges. He stated that this is what operators have been yearning for, adding that no ethical importer or freight forwarder would oppose the usage of the scanning machines at the port.
Dr. Farinto, however, lamented that the use of the scanning machines is causing a lot of delays which propels the freight forwarders to pay demurrages and storage charges which hitherto were not factored into their contractual agreement with their clients. He said, notwithstanding, alarming rates of psychotropic substances are entering through the ports, which necessitates the need for the scanning machine to examine every cargo that enters the port, adding that any freight forwarder kicking against scanners is not a patriotic citizen.
Freight forwarders are discouraged by the scanning machine.
Furtherly, Dr. Farinto disputes freight forwarders’ assertion that most officials have signed a contract of clearance even before the vessel arrives in Nigeria, stressing that no businessperson would desire storage and demurrages to accumulate on their job. He stated that freight forwarders are not just thrilled and discouraged with the slow operation of the scanner, not that they don’t want it to be put to use, while customs also need to be up and do their job.
When compared to the fast operation at Tin Can Port, where no complaints are raised about the scanning equipment, Apapa port takes four to five days wait to examine containers. Dr. Farinto urged higher-ups in the Nigeria Customs Service to procure more scanning machines, saying that the current infrastructure cannot keep up with the influx of trade. A prominent freight forwarder, Eugene Nweke, responded to allegations made by Customs Officers that clearing agents were sabotaging the scanners by asking Customs to take Cargo through 100% physical examinations rather than the invasive scanners by labelling the claims an attempt to blackmail the professionals.
Nweke disclaims customs allegations on clearing agents.
Ultimately, he said that clearing agents have no say over the kind of inspections performed on shipments by Customs. Nweke emphasized that, from a practical standpoint, no licensed agent has ever been given the authority to choose the specific clearance intervention procedure that a certain shipment would undertake. A licensed agent does not have the final say over whether a shipment will pass through the red, yellow, or blue channel; rather, such selections are made purely by the core imputed selectivity capabilities of the Nigeria Customs’ NICIS 2 site.