Cargo scanners controversy
Again, FEC approves scanners for 3 ports
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
After the approval of two failed contract awards for the purchase of cargo scanners for use of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) by the present Federal Executive Council (FEC), the latter yesterday again approved $18m, N3.25billion for the supply and installation of three units Rapiscan mobile cargo scanners.
Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, who announced the deal at the end of the 9th virtual FEC meeting at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, said the scanners are for use in three customs ports across the country, namely Onne, Port Harcourt and Tin Can Island Lagos ports.
It will be recalled that the former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun announced the award of contract for the purchase of three units of same Rapiscan mobile scanners, valued at over N9billion to one Air Wave Ltd. The contract award however was steeped in controversy after the management of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), allegedly in collusion with the contractor, toyed and tossed the approval around for about two years, after which the NCS wrote to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), to seek review of the contract sum including the review of the originating tax and exchange rates.
Adeosun, under whose supervision the deal was packaged and approved by the FEC, in 2018, said that the contract includes the training of 120 customs officers in the operation of the scanners, and the integration of the scanning system into Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System II, NICIS 11.
The former finance minister in addition said that the contract cost includes delivery of the three units’ scanners, on-site services/support and maintenance for 30 months from the date of installation and commencement of operations.
Earlier also, in Oct 2019, FEC announced the approval of the sum of N718.6 million for the acquisition of one mobile security scanner for the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa. Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed who announced the contract award after the weekly FEC meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, at the Presidential Villa, said the scanner would boost security at the port as well as attract more revenue.
Mohammed said, “The Ministry of Transportation presented a memo for approval for the award of contract for the supply of one mobile security scanner at the Lagos Port Complex. The contract is worth N718.6 million
“The purpose of the memo is to supply this scanner which will enhance security at the Lagos Port Complex. Hitherto, many vessels have refused to berth at the Lagos Port because they have not been too satisfied with the level of security.”
Until yesterday the FEC officially announced the cancellation of the earlier award of contract for the supply and installation of three Raspian scanners, the mobile security scanner meant for Apapa the Lagos Port Complex was yet to be supplied.
Speaking on the latest development, Zainab Ahmed explained reasons the earliest contract was not executed, citing review of the contract contents based on the failure of those who packaged the deal to include VAT; even as she further cited disputes that arose from ‘exchange rate differential’.
Neither the finance minister nor Lai Mohammed told Nigerians the reasons for the said dispute in exchange rate differential, nor reasons the contract duly approved by FEC, following which the necessary processes were undertaking, using public funds upon which procurement approval was granted by the Bureau of Public Procurement.
Like the keeper of the pharaoh’s gold store, Ahmed simply said, “Today at Council we presented two memos, the first memo was to seek Council’s approval for the revision of a contract that was previously approved by Council in 2018 for the supply and installation of three numbers Rapiscan mobile cargo scanner.
“These are large size cargo scanners that will be placed in Onne port, Port Harcourt port, and Tin Can port. They are scanners that can actually drive containers through; that will fasten cargo examination and reduce the need for the Customs to open containers and do the physical inspection as they are doing now that is causing us a lot of time as well as the loss of revenue.
“This contract is awarded to a company that is named Messrs Airwave Limited and the contract is in the sum of $18.12 million of foreign component, there is also a local component of N3. 255 billion inclusive of five percent VAT.
“The review became necessary in order to accommodate VAT which was not included in the initial contract and also due to dispute that we had arising from exchange rate differential. So we have now a resolution and an understanding and FEC approval for this contract to go on.
“The scanners are designed to aid effective revenue collection, the features that will screen for narcotics, weapons and undeclared items; they can also detect arms and ammunition, legal importation and possession of arms and light weapons. The presence of these scanners will obviate the need for physical examination of goods and fast track the trade business report. This contract is for the Nigeria Customs Service.
“The second memo we presented to council today is also for the Nigerian Customs Service. It is for the design, construction and supply of five numbers of fast ballistic reverine assault boats and five numbers patrol boats with all associated accessories in favour of Messre CY West African Limited in the sum of N280, 992, 888, 75 inclusive of 7.5 percent VAT.
“The Nigerian Customs Service needs these boats to enhance its operational efficiency and combat smuggling activities on our waterways. This will also significantly boost revenue collection and other core duties of the maritime unit of the Nigerian Customs Service.”