The collapse of scanning machines worth over $120 million at the nation’s seaports have been attributed to poor maintenance culture by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) hence the need for Destination Inspection Agents to return, says a trade expert and former staff of Cotecna Destination Inspection Limited (CDIL).
At present, all processes relating to cargo inspection at the ports are done manually in spite of its being lengthy, cumbersome and expensive.
Musa Umar, who worked with CDIL – one of the former Destination Inspection Agents operating at the port said in a chat with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY in Lagos that the scanners handed over to Customs by his company and other inspection agents were in good shape and fully functional.
According to him, “As part of the contract stipulation, before handing over, we upgraded all the scanners to the most current system and made sure they were in top shape. It was on that premise that we were given certificate of delivery for the service and that I know was applicable to all the service providers.
“I was part of the team and we made sure that the scanners were working before handing over. So nobody will say we handed over obsolete scanners.
“What we handed over were functional scanners. They were new scanners we bought in 2010 and some in 2012 and we handed over in 2013.”
Umar, who lamented that lack of maintenance culture has negatively affected infrastructural development in the country, advised Customs to engage the services of skilled companies in the maintenance and operation of cargo scanners at the port.
He said, “For government in Nigeria, when it comes to maintenance culture, we are poor. So as long as we don’t have maintenance culture for any equipment, not just the scanners, we cannot get good result.
“There are schedule requirement that you must adhere to strictly. Even if you don’t check or maintain your car regularly, it will knock down.
“Government should not have anything to do with the provision of the equipment except for the operational side which should be managed by Customs because they are the users of the result of the scanning images.
“But when it comes to providing the services, if they can get service providers with good track record that will supply in the equipment and operate the scanners, then they won’t be having this kind of problem at the port.
“The Customs has built its capacity in terms of trade facilitation because we have trained a lot of their officers. We have good image analysts from Customs but government should not have anything to do with the provision of the equipment.”
Speaking on the conditions of the scanners, Umar advised that the fixed scanners could still be repaired and upgraded while the mobile scanners should be replaced.
“The best option is to have a mix of the old and new scanners. Some of the fixed scanners are very good with powerful technology that can still be useful to them. But they can buy few mobile scanners port by port. They can start with Apapa , Tin Can and thereafter to other ports,” Umar added.
The Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, had last year hinted that the NCS may engage the service providers to take over cargo scanning operations at the nation’s seaports.