DESTINATION INSPECTION: Cotecna loses Nigeria’s premier port to Global Scan
… As FG ignores Customs misgivings
Since penultimate Thursday when SHIPS & PORTS DAILY broke the news of the Federal Government’s extension of the contracts of the destination inspection service providers by six months, several intrigues have continued to greet the exercise.
In a move that has jolted many industry stakeholders, leading destination inspection service provider, Cotecna Destination Inspection Limited (CDIL), has lost its prime spot of the Lagos Port Complex (LPC), Apapa to lowly-rated Global Scan Systems Limited.
The Federal Ministry of Finance last week informed the service providers, namely: CDIL, SGS and Global Scan, that, while it would retain their services for another six months after the June 2013 expiration date, it would rejig the lots allocated to them.
In the exercise, which took effect from LAST Friday, Global Scan is now in charge of the LPC, Seme Border Station, Idiroko Border Station, and Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.
While CDIL lost the LPC, it retained its charge over Tin-Can Island Port, Banki Border Station in Kano State and Jibya Border Station in Katsina State.
SGS, which was in charge of the scanners at Idiroko, Port-Harcourt Airport, Port-Harcourt Port, Onne and Idiroko Border Station, did not suffer too much loss under the new arrangement, as it is now in charge of Calabar Port, Onne Federal Lighter Terminal, Onne Federal Ocean Terminal, PTML, Port-Harcourt Airport and Port-Harcourt Port.
While the Finance Ministry did not give reasons for rejigging the lots, opinions are rife that the exercise was in compliance with a ‘directive from above’.
The owner of Global Scan Systems Limited, Mr Emeka Offor, is a known financier of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Before the new six months extension; the initial seven-year contact, which elapsed on December 31, 2012, had been extended by six months to June 30, 2013.
One of the terms of the contract was provision, operation and maintenance of the hi-tec scanners used to scan goods at the seaports, airports and land border stations.
The service providers were also required to train Customs personnel in operating and maintaining the machines at their exit.
Prior to this latest extension granted the destination inspection service providers, SHIPS & PORTS DAILY had recently reported, the strong reaction of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), defending itself stoutly against the position of the Managing Director of Global Scan, Mr. Fred Udechukwu, who had expressed doubts on the capacity of the Service to carry on implementing the destination inspection regime solely and effectively with then impending disengagement of the service providers by June 30, 2013.
A chilling alarm had been raised by Udechukwu, who had expressed fears of possible outbreak of cancer if the cargo scanners installed at Nigerian airports, seaports and land border posts are entrusted to those he described as untrained and inexperienced people after the exit of the service providers.
Udechukwu claimed that the NCS lacks competent hands to operate and maintain the scanning machines. The Global Scan boss alleged that all the efforts by the service providers to train Customs personnel in this critical aspect of the contract were thwarted by the top echelon of the Service.
Matters became testier, as the Service Public Relations Officer, Deputy Comptroller of Customs Wale Adeniyi, issued a blistering response to the Global Scan Managing Director’s remarks.
In the statement, which was titled: GLOBALSCAN AND THE FAILURE OF CONTRACT DELIVERY, a copy of which was sent to SHIPS & PORTS DAILY, Adeniyi stated: “According to statements credited to the Globalscan Boss, ‘Nigeria risks the outbreak of cancer’ in our ports and borders if cargo scanners are handed over to those he described as ‘untrained and inexperienced’ Customs Service operatives.
“As we approached the end of the extension period for DI operations, the swan song about capacity gaps in Customs became more strident and desperate from Globascan. In another recent publication, Mr Udechukwu described Customs officers as ‘untrainable’ because ‘there are no Engineers in Customs’.”
Noting that “these are desperate claims to retain a non-performing contract”, the Customs image maker explained thus: “In 2005, Federal Government of Nigeria had conceived the DI programme as a viable approach to Customs modernisation. Four companies were engaged on a build-own-operate and transfer (BOOT) basis over a even-year period to provide the required infrastructure. Globanscan, one of the SPs contracted was allotted Seme Border, ports of Calabar, Warri, Port-Harcourt, as well as international airports in Lagos and Port-Harcourt. One of the obligations of the company under the contract is the installation of fixed scanner in Seme Border and mobile ones at the other sites. Customs Officers were to be trained on operation and maintenance of the scanners during the contract period. Citing various excuses, Globalscan did not start construction in Seme site until about two years ago. In the other locations, virtually all the mobile scanners supplied have serious operations and maintenance issues.”
Adeniyi went on: “Several audit and assessment reports from Accenture, World Bank and oversight committees of the National Assembly were unsparing in their indictment of Globalscan’s shoddy handling of its sites.
“Last year, the NCS carried out its own audit, supported by a team of consultants. The exercise showed a pitiful state of equipment performance, availability, safety and maintenance, compounded by very poor facilities for staff. The fixed scanner expected to have been delivered half way into the contract period is still under construction, seven years after. The mobile one brought to the borderas stop gap had hydraulic system failure, rendering it useless since November 2012. The situation is worse in PTML (Tin-Can), Warri and Calabar ports, where the equipment supplied cannot be used on the basis of poor performance and safety issues.
“We find Udechukwu’s ‘cancer mongering’ quite amusing because of his apparent ignorance of radiation safety knowledge. There has not been a documented case of cancer caused by the use of these scanners anywhere in the world. The scanners have multiple fail-safe systems to ensure that they cannot be operated in an unsafe environment. It is for this exact reason that his sites in PTML, Warri and Calabar were declared unsafe for any scanning activity. It is Udechukwu and his Company that have safety questions to answer even before handover.”
On “Customs’ plan for operational safety and capacity building”, Adeniyi stated: “As part of our take over plans, we have developed our own professional and sustainable scanner training capability, including the professional development of expert trainers. NCS have undertaken an enormous development of training courses for all officers involved in scanning, with specific training for each functional role. NCS has also undertaken the selection and delivery of these courses to over 300 NCS officers, this is reinforced by a programme of coaching by experts who have years of experience in operating scanners for Customs around the world. NCS has selected 20 officers to act as Radiation Protection Supervisors at each site. These officers report to the NCS Radiation Safety Officer, who holds a MSc. in Physics and has over seven years experience with x-ray scanners. All of these officers are trained to international standards and qualified both from a UK radiation safety company and will be further trained and assessed by an NNRA-approved establishment. All of these activities have been instigated and carried out by NCS as a response to the failure of the SPs to carry out a credible transfer activity, in particular GlobalScan who have the worst maintained and operated equipment among the SPs.
“It is amusing as much as insulting to be criticised for lack of capacity at the end of a seven year contract which had, as its goal, the establishment of an NCS scanning capacity.”
Concluding on the subheading, Diversionary tactics from real fact, Adeniyi stated: “The failed attempt by Udechukwu to change the narrative of DI, hiding behind the façade of capacity gap and cancer mongering should be put in proper perspective. Most Nigerians still find it very difficult and disheartening to correlate the amount of money thrown at the SPs particularly Globalscan in return for the poor infrastructure, operation, and capacity building and transfer activity delivered so far. The seven years of service paid for by the Federal Government in no way represents value for money. Udechukwu’s position that NCS has insufficient capacity to take over is a clear self- indictment by Globalscan.
“We will not allow the critics of Udechukwu and his likes to deter us from building our capacity to perform our statutory responsibility. We are already on a steady course, that is self- sustaining and inward looking. Our salvation ultimately lies not in the hands of self-styled desperate arm- chair experts.”
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