There may be more reasons for Nigerians to get even more worried over the security issue in the country, as over 7,000 containers may pass through the Apapa Wharf without being scanned. This is sequel to the current duty switch involving two destination inspection agencies which failed to carry out proper hand-over to each other. There are fears that unpatriotic Nigerians may capitalise on this gap to have some deadly equipment like arms and ammunition pass through the wharf.
Already, the volume of containers being scanned daily at the port has dropped drastically due to bad scanning machines handed over by Cotecna Inspection services to GlobalScan Systems Limited, whom the federal government has mandated to start scanning of imports at the Lagos Port Complex (LPC). The federal government had in a surprise move rejigged service providers in the country. While Global Scan Systems Limited (GSSL) was asked by the federal government to commence scanning at the Apapa Port, Cotecna Destination Inspection Limited (CDIL) was asked to resume at other sites.
Irked by the suspicious move of the government, Cotecna hurriedly left the LPC complex with its photocopier machines and all other equipment, living allegedly an unserviceable mobile and fixed scanners for the new occupants to work with. Added to this is the reduction of containers being sent to the scanning site by the management of APM terminals, the main concessionaire at the port who reduced by half the number of containers sent to the scanning site daily.
Consequently, freight forwarders at the port have called on the comptroller general of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to direct that the over 7,000 containers stranded at the port be subjected to 100 per cent examination.
Speaking with BusinessWorld recently, Emmanuel Ekpa, a chiefsuperintendent and Customs public relationsofficer (CPRO), Apapa Area 1 Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), posited that the backlog of containers at the scanning site may impact negatively on the import supply chain, and, by extension, increase the prices of goods to consumers, if not quickly addressed. While noting that scanning is faster and time-saving than physical examination, Ekpa stated that the situation is hindering the federal government 48 hours’ cargo clearance policy. “The situation has slowed down importation and business, because it is when the agents take delivery of their goods and sell them, that they go back to import. But, if the ones they have are not released, certainly they might not be able to import more,” the CPRO said.
He explained that the re-routing of containers, initially triggered for scanning, to physical examination may also not allow for 100 per cent examination to be conducted, which, according to him, puts the examining officer at risk of losing his job when discrepancies are noted.
He noted that, although duties are being paid before customs documents are processed, the situation has delayed issuing of debit notes to importers whose containers have been discovered to have been under-declared.
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