The federal government has been urged to compel the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to provide scanners at the nation’s sea ports so as to facilitate trade and enhance the ease of doing business.
Speaking at maritime stakeholders’ forum in Lagos, the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman, appealed to the federal government to urgently intervene on the need for the NCS to acquire scanners to facilitate cargo clearance at the nation’s ports.
She lamented that lack of cargo scanners at the ports was one of the major challenges impeding the federal government policy on the ease of doing business. The NPA boss decried the current situation where cargo examination at the ports is being conducted 100 per cent manually by Customs thereby delaying clearance.
“As a result of the absence of scanners in our seaports, all cargoes that comes into Nigeria are examined physically. You can imagine the huge tonnage of cargo that comes into our ports and that tonnage is being examined physically by all agencies of government. Automatically, that translates to congestion.
“I will like the minister to intervene for the Customs to deploy these scanners at our ports so that we can have fast inspection of cargo at our ports and all the information from the scanning can be sent to all agencies. I don’t know how it is possible for Customs to say they physically examine all the containers. There is no way that would facilitate ease of doing business,” she added.
Bala-Usman, also raised concern over the refusal of customs to auction seized cargoes, which she noted have taken over available space at the terminals. She said: “There is also the concern of overtime cargo. I will like you (Minister) to intervene on this matter to draw the attention of the Nigeria Customs to facilitate the auction of cargo. We have huge volume of overtime cargo in our ports. The last time auction was done was in 2015 and we have written severally to Nigeria Customs.
“We have mentioned the need for us to move the containers out of the terminal into Ikorodu. What we have told them is that there is a provision for on-the-spot auction, so you can go and auction on the spot. We need to facilitate that because the terminals are full, there is no space. So that is a big challenge for us and we would like you to intervene.”
On the issue of the diversion of Nigeria-bound cargoes to the ports of neighbouring countries, Bala-Usman said: “Items that are banned or have high tariff like vehicles, rice are the ones that are usually diverted and smuggled through the land border because it is difficult to smuggle items through the seaport.”