The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) said it has abolished “homogenous examination” of containers, and therefore, all containers must be physically examined before exiting the ports.
Homogenous examination of containers is a practice where bulk containers are randomly selected for examination based on discretion of officers at the port.
The NCS said the policy became necessary to respond to the rising insecurity situation in Nigeria as a result of the proliferation of arms and ammunition, illicit drugs and other dangerous imports.
According to a circular with reference number EI&I/2021/circular No.008, titled New Rules on Homogenous Examination, a copy of which was sighted by SHIPS & PORTS, NCS warned that any releasing officer who fails to comply with the new directive will be sanctioned.
Signed by the Assistant Comptroller General Enforcement, Investigation and Inspection (EI&I) on behalf of Comptroller General of Customs and addressed to all Area Controllers, the circular said the directive takes immediate effect.
“The common practice of homogenous examination where bulk containers scheduled for examination are randomly selected for examination is hereby abolished.
“Henceforth, examination of containers, no matter the quantity, must be positioned, cut and examined before exiting the command’s terminals. Any releasing officer who fails to comply with this new directive will be sanctioned accordingly,” the circular reads.
Reacting to the development, the Director General of LCCI, Muda Yusuf, said the only way to address security breaches and delays associated with the physical examination of containers would be through the use of technology.
He said, “Customs may have a point because it is possible that they may have some experiences that were posing some security risks to the country. If you have random examination, it is a very vulnerable method to security breaches and can easily get the system compromised.
“But what I think should be high on the agenda is the use of technology and I don’t know why it is taking us so long to be able to deploy technology to scan containers. We must not waste any further time to make that happen. There is nothing wrong if we subject all containers to proper examination but the way to do it is to use technology otherwise, we may be examining containers endlessly and the whole process of physical examination of containers is full of problems of delays.
“We cannot dismiss what Customs is saying completely because of the delay that it will cause but we need to accelerate the use of technology. That is the only way out. If we say they should not do it, they can argue that it is causing a lot of security breaches. So what we should be pushing for to deal with the security concerns and the issue of delay is the use of technology.”
Muda, who decried the absence of scanners at the ports despite the large sums of money generated from the port daily, blamed the development to lack of serious commitment and political will by the government.
“I don’t know what the big deal is about getting scanners for a port where the government is generating almost N5billion everyday and yet we can’t afford scanners? We heard CBN was offering to buy scanners for them, I don’t know why we need to get to that ridiculous low.
“There is no serious commitment and lack of political will on the part of the government that is why it has been lingering for so long,” he said.