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Lawmakers To Probe $120m Abandoned Ports Scanners


Even as the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd) is smarting from the controversy that attended the alleged sign off of the E-Customs Modernization project to a company other than the one believed to have won the bid, lawmakers have hinted of of plans to probe the refusal of the customs boss to work with 22 cargo scanners inherited by him.

The House of Representatives has expressed its displeasure over the abandonment and the inability of customs to maintain the scanners purchased at the cost of $22million in 2006.
The Ali led customs management has opted for the purchase of a new set of 3 scanners delivered early this year but yet to be deployed.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila who broached the issue at the investigative hearing on the transparency in the transfer of technical know-how from the inspection agents (Contecna Destination Inspection Limited and Global Scan systems Limited), noted that the House would ascertain the status of the machine and why despite the massive investments for their acquisition and prior modernization of its operations, the service did not failed to achieve the modernization objectives.
The Speaker flayed the continued resort to physical inspection of cargo as time-consuming, ineffective and laced with corruption.
According to Gbajabiamila, manual cargo inspection also contributes to delays in the clearance process at the ports and land border.
“It is, therefore, an untenable status quo, and it must change,” he said.
In his presentation, National President of the Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics in Nigeria, Mr. Frank Ogunojemite in his presentation noted that the purchase of the scanners without any attempt on the part of the government to reach out to the original equipment manufacturer to ascertain if the old ones can be salvaged proves that the problems confronting Nigeria’s modern cargo examination are lack of maintenance culture.
According to Ogunojemite, the purchase a new set of scanners is not the solution.
“The problem will most likely repeat itself if no individual or agency is held responsible for their maintenance. To ensure the efficiency of cargo examination and improve competitiveness, nothing prevents the government from engaging the OEM to repair the previous scanners and put them back to use alongside new ones that may be required.
“As the NCS has proved itself to be incapable of handling something as sensitive as operations and maintenance of multimillion naira scanners, to avoid a repeat of history, beat left in the hands of contracted DI agents who will operate and maintain them, ” he said.
Minister of Finance, National Budget and Planning, Ms. Zainab Ahmed, said the federal government decided to purchase new scanners as spare parts were not available to repair existing ones.
The Minister whowas represented at the investigative hearing by Mr. Stephen Okon, a director at the ministry, was however countered by the Smith Machine, manufacturer of the abandoned scanners, saying the machines are serviceable.
According to therepresentative of Smith Machine, Manoj Jagtiani, “out of the 22 scanners only 13 are currently functional adding that the scanners they manufactured are expected to last for 20years.”
Col. Ali who was represented at the investigative hearing by the Assistant Comptroller General in charge of ICT Modernization, ACG Aliyu Saidu noted that Smith Machine did not provide all the essential equipment for the maintenance of the scanners.
In addition, Said informed the house investigative hearing that only Contecna trained customs personnel on how to man the scanners.

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