Scanner breakdown threatens bilateral trade at Seme border

The breakdown of the fixed scanner at the Seme Border to work at installed capacity has resulted into slow pace of trading activities at Nigeria’s busiest land frontier with the Benin Republic.

Investigations revealed that over 80 trucks and other smaller vehicles laden with various goods due for scanning to ascertain their contents are held up in long queues at both the Nigerian side and Atlas Park, Benin Republic yesterday.

This development is apparently posing a threat to the smooth movement of goods across the border, as transporters lament the waste of man-hours on the busy route.

Seme Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) generated N1.1 billion in September.

The machine, which was designed to scan an average of 200 vehicles daily, is now only able to scan less than 100 due to the epileptic state of the scanner.

Seme Customs Public Relations, Taupyen Selchang, confirmed that the scanner was faulty and has been posing some challenges to their operations in the last few days.

He said the management had reported to the appropriate quarters, while engineers have been mobilised immediately and work is on going to get the scanner fixed in no distant time.

Selchang said: “For the past two days the technicians have been on ground. You know electronic issues can arise at any point, so they have been working on it round the clock. In fact, the DC scanner has not left that place since the past two days.

“We are also ensuring that all hands are on deck to fix the scanner because we believe it will enhance our performance and boost our revenue and facilitate trade.

“Our headquarters is also monitoring the issue and we believe that it will work efficiently in no distance time. But for now, we are facing the challenge; it is even with the effort of our technical crew that we were able to work manually yesterday. That is why the movement is not as fast as expected. We believe that when things are rectified, normalcy will return,” he explained.

Meanwhile, most of the trucks in the Atlas Park were not allowed to move out, amid fears that the queues might cause a disruption in the flow of vehicular traffic.

The situation is further worsened by the lack of a parking bay due to the slow pace of ongoing construction work by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the European Union (EU).

Many trucks had to stay on queues for about six hours, while operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service deployed to work at the scanning point tried to fix the problem.

Some of the truck owners and drivers spoken to decried the situation, which they described as regrettable. One of them expressed worry over the state of perishable imports like fish in cooling vans.

‘’I was afraid because the cooling system of my truck may not endure for days and this will affect the state of the fish, we are carrying. Customs did something fast about the scanner and we scaled through. I suggest they resort to the old method of physical examination for more trucks to come into the country,’’ a source said.

The scanner, was allegedly procured by Globalscan Systems Technology Limited, and later handed over to the Nigeria Customs at the expiration of a contract between the service provider and the Federal Ministry of Finance.