INSPECTION: Dismiss foreign agents, Reps tell Customs

The House of Representatives yesterday asked the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to disengage the services of Webb Fontaine, COTECNA, SGS and Global Scan.
The foreign companies were contracted by the NCS for destination inspection, but the House, for security and economic reasons, said that it wants the firms to hand over the functions to local service providers with Nigerian workers.
The House took the decision following a report submitted by the Chairman of the House Committee on Customs and Excise, Hon. Sabo Muhammed Nakudu.
The report was debated for several hours.

Nakudu urged the House to “consider the report of the Committee on Customs and Excise on the investigation on the need to prevent continued loss of revenue through ports inspection contracts and approve the recommendations therein.”
The report stated in part: “That the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) should ensure that its officers trained by the various service providers are attached to the service providers in the interim to acquire more knowledge and not post them out to areas irrelevant to the training already received.”
The report recommended that the service providers, including Webb Fontaine, COTECNA SGS and Global Scan, should take steps to harmonise their different risk platforms into a single window for the use of the NCS.
The document stated: “A central data management system that will aid in harmonisation and integration of all data from relevant agencies for effective monitoring should be immediately established, and that pending the complete takeover of destination inspection services by the Nigeria Customs Service, an implementable transition timetable should be put in place to ensure orderly transition to the Nigeria Customs Service,” warning that “this transition should not extend beyond the end of 2013.”
The report added: “The service providers should ensure that there is no skills gap in the Nigeria Custom Service within the transition period.”

The report recommended, in part, that there should be harmonisation of training standards by all the service providers; that the NCS should recruit younger officers with requisite qualification in Physics, Chemistry, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical/Electronic Engineering and related disciplines for training on the use and maintenance of scanners and other specialised equipment and operation.
The House report advised the government to ensure full implementation and enforcement of its trade policies and bilateral agreements, as this would greatly enhance government revenue and local economy.
It said that all goods coming into the country should be fully scanned for both security and revenue purposes, as against the present practice of scanning based on Automated System of Customs Data (ASYCUDA) random selectivity as most of the installed scanners by the service providers have the capacity to do so, and that within the transition period, more scanners should be provided at all entry points at all the ports in Nigeria where they are not currently available.
Measures should also be put in place to ensure that installed scanners are effectively utilised and properly maintained as the scanners are currently grossly unutilised.
The report noted that since some of the nation’s ports, especially those in Port-Harcourt, Calabar, Warri and others, are in very bad shape, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the executive arm of government should be mandated to develop the ports by dredging and deepening the draughts to accommodate bigger vessels.

The report said: “The Foreign Exchange and trade facilitation documents like Form M, Form A,Form NXP and Form NCX1 should be automated immediately to enhance transparency, increased revenue generation and fraud-free operations.
“It is recommended that within the transition period and thereafter, effort should be made to patronise Nigerian companies who have shown experience and capacity in destination inspection services. This will create more jobs and employment and enhance national economic growth.
“The executive arm of government should ensure that all service providers, who defaulted or evaded tax, should be made to pay up within the transition period.
“In future, government should, as a matter of policy, enhance patronage of Nigerian companies as they are less likely to default or evade tax and could easily be made to pay whatever is being owed.”

Copyright Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to as the source.