Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila has expressed displeasure with over 20 cargo scanners installed at a cost of more than $120 million across some Nigeria’s air and seaports.
Nigeria acquired the cargo scanners and retained the service providers on build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) basis, including terms that that the service providers will offer training and technical support services to the Nigeria Customs Service on risk management, valuation and classification.
The speaker lamented that “By the end of 2013, the transition process from COTECNA, SGS Scanning Nigeria Limited, and Global Scan Systems Nigeria Limited, the former service providers, was completed and the scanners handed over to the Nigeria Customs service. However, within a year of the handover, the scanners had stopped functioning and Nigerian Ports and Borders were once again returned to the analogue process of physical examination”.
Speaking on Monday at a public hearing organised by the House Committee on Customs and Excise, Gbajabiamila said “the scanners, which were installed at various Customs operation locations such as Tin-Can Island Port, Apapa, Porthacourt Area One Command, Onne Port, Aminu Kano International Airport, Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Seme and Idi-Iroko borders, Porthacourt and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, among others, are still currently non-functioning.
The speaker who was represented by Chairman of the House Services Committee, Raji Olawale therefore explained that the purpose of the investigative hearing, was “to ascertain what happened to those machines, and to determine why despite the massive investments in the sector, we did not achieve the modernisation objectives that motivated the investment”.
According to him, “the practice of physical inspection is time consuming and ineffective. It also contributes to the delays at the Ports and border points and allows for prohibited goods to enter the country despite the best efforts of custom officers. It is therefore an untenable status quo, and it must change”.
Speaking earlier, Chairman of the Committee, Leke Abejide explained that the House was concerned by allegations that the transition process was not transparently handled, leading the possible collapse of the scanners, adding that “that’s why we want to know why everything went down.