A plan by the Federal Government to ensure a 48-hour cargo clearance is being threatened, as the multi-billion naira scanners purchased some years ago are rotting away at seaports and land borders.
Disturbed by the situation, the House of Representatives yesterday resolved to investigate the N9.2 billion contract awarded for the provision of the scanners.
Cargo scanning, also known as non-intrusive inspection (NII), is a non-destructive method of inspecting and identifying goods that enhances Customs clearance processes.
Importers and clearing agents at Apapa, Tin Can, Warri, Calabar and Port Harcourt ports are feeling the pangs of delayed clearance, as cargoes are now subjected to manual or physical inspection, leading to high stock of goods awaiting inspection for several days.An importer in Lagos, who preferred anonymity, told The Guardian that the delay was costing them much “because after seven days if you have not cleared your cargo, you will pay demurrage and the longer the goods are delayed, the more money you pay.”
Demurrage, which is the penalty or fee payable to the vessel owner for failure to load or discharge the ship within the time agreed, ranges between $75 and $200 daily.
The source noted that the increase in demurrage would make the commodities more expensive as importers will pass on the burden of the additional costs to the final consumers.
The failure of the scanners is also impeding international trade, as importers will either resort to bringing in their goods through neighbouring countries such as Benin Republic (Seme border) or resort to smuggling, thereby depriving government of the necessary funds it requires for economic development.
The Destination Inspection Agencies (DIAs) had handed over the imports checks to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in December 2013, but three years after, a large number of the scanners have been abandoned due to malfunctioning.
The Guardian gathered that the Federal Government earmarked money for the maintenance and replacement of the scanners, but the Customs is yet to access the funds.
At Apapa port, thousands of cargoes are lying in the premises waiting for inspection. The Customs officers were carefully examining the containers through manual process, which is tedious and time-consuming, The Guardian discovered during a recent investigation.
The Public Relations Officer, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Wale Adeniyi, who confirmed the poor state of the scanners, told The Guardian that the agency was constrained by a lack of funds to carry out maintenance on the facilities.