Stakeholders including freight forwarders operating at the nation’s seaports have lamented the delay in the completion of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) modernization project.
This is even as they accused the Federal Government of being insincere in the automation and modernization of the NCS.
The freight forwarders in separate chats with our correspondent lamented that there are deliberate efforts to sabotage the automation system and frustrate the Customs modernization project.
Recall that the Federal Government had attributed the delay in the implementation of the $3.2 billion contract for ‘complete’ automation of the NCS that was approved by the Federal Executive Council since 2020, to disagreements between partners that formed consortiums for the project.
The Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, had stated that the implementation of the e-Customs project would commence since the party that was uncomfortable with the agreement had opted out, despite efforts by the government, through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, to mediate.
However, about one year after the Minister had given the assurances that the e-Customs project would commence, stakeholders said nothing significant has taken place and that the government is insincere with the modernization project.
Checks by our correspondent revealed that the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Customs and Excise; Mr Leke Abejide had said that Nigeria is losing about $8.810bn yearly to non-implementation of e-Customs project.
Abejide had explained during a plenary session last year, that the project, if properly implemented, will go a long way to reduce Nigeria’s vulnerability to external debts and also strengthen its currency.
Reacting to the delay in the Customs Modernization project, the acting President Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Dr. Kayode Farinto, described the project as dead on arrival, alleging that some people are frustrated by the reality of the project. He alleged that some of these individuals are bent on selling the country to the Chinese.
“There are many contentious issues on this, coupled with the fact that many people are challenging this project due to the fact that some people want to hand over this country to the Chinese. This project is dead on arrival and not acceptable. Let us look for an African company that can partner with a Nigerian on this project”, he said.
Also speaking to our correspondent, the Deputy National President Air and Logistics of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF); Dr. Segun Musa, lamented that it is so unfortunate that the government is not taking the modernization project seriously. He argued that there is no structure in place to show that the Nigeria Customs Service or the Federal Government is truly ready for modernization.
“It’s so unfortunate that government is not taking this modernization serious, with all sense of modesty, I will say I am more or less privileged to say that I am one of the people that proposed the modernization and automation of the NCS.
“But unfortunately we have a kind of stone age Customs that are so rigid to change, and the panic has always been that Customs have this feeling that once modernization begins a lot of them that are not relevant to the system will have to pull out of the system, and this is one of the major challenges we are facing, it’s so unfortunate. There is no structure on ground to show that any modernization will commence”, he said.
On his part the President of African Professionals Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON); Otunba Frank Ogunojemite also raised eyebrows over the delay in the modernization project. He said, “its high time we demanded clarification from Customs regarding this modernization project, we need to ask questions, should Customs be concessioned for 20 years, what will be the impact?
“Now we heard that the Apapa Command has reversed back to the analogue way of cargo examination. What are they trying to do? Are they trying to legalize sharp practices? I think there is a lot we need to demand from the government for the Customs management to function appropriately”, he said.
Also speaking to our correspondent the Public Relations Officer of ANLCA TinCan chapter, Mr. Suleiman Ayo accused the government of not being sincere with the modernization project, he opined that the modernization project is not coming to reality any time soon from all indications, describing the situation as unfortunate.
“There was a time we learnt that the Customs modernization project was concessioned to one Chinese company and we don’t understand anymore, because every month, every year they will tell us they are recycling the modernization concept and we have not seen anything.
“When they talk about scanners, you can see now that even Apapa port decided to jettison scanners and go back to 100% physical examination.
“Then we don’t know who to call on, except the Ministry of Finance through NCS. The modernization project is not coming to reality any time soon from all indications and it’s very unfortunate”, he said.
Kindly like us on Facebook/twitter