Joint Committee of the National Assembly on Customs and Excise has summoned the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, and the Comptroller- General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali, to appear before it on importation of non – functional scanners allegedly facilitated by them.
Also to appear before the Senator Francis Alimikhena (PDP Edo North)-led Joint Committee, is the Contractor, Webb Fontaine, that was given the contract by the Ministry of Finance to provide the IT infrastructure for the Nigeria Customs for effective scanning activities.
The Joint Committee has also summoned the freight forwarders under the aegis of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF); Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria, APFFLON and Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA.
Attempts by the Joint Committee of the National Assembly on Customs and Excise to probe the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) over the award of contract for scanners and alleged concession of N3.4 trillion revenue collection contract to foreign private firms suffered a major back last week as CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and the Minister of Finance, the contractor and other stakeholders failed to appear before the investigative panel.
Not happy with the development, both Senator Francis Alimikhena and the House of Representatives Chairman on Customs and Excise Committee, Honourable Leke Abejide, frowned at the absence of the Minister, the CBN Governor and other stakeholders that are involved.
Senator Alimikhena specifically directed that the Minister of Finance, the CG of Customs; the CBN Governor, Webb Fontaine Limited and other Stakeholders must appear before the Committee on Thursday this week.
He warned that representation from any of them would not be attended to, as issues at stake, requires the affected public officers to appear in persons.
“The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Godwin Emefiele and the Comptroller- General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali; the freight forwarders under the aegis of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF); Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria, APFFLON and Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA must appear before this joint Committee.
“We want to see the Minister, the CG, Customs, the CBN Governor, Presidents of the Associations, we do not want to see any representation, we want to take a decision about Nigeria, this is about the revenue of the country. Webb Fontaine is very important in this matter, they have made serious money in this country,” he said.
The Federal Government had been urged to terminate the IT infrastructure contract of Webb Fontaine for the Nigeria Customs Service now and engage a reliable IT service provider, Webb Fontaine as IT provider provides IT infrastructure for the Customs.
The call by freight forwarders under the aegis of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) was necessitated by constant breakdown of internet server of the Customs thus incapacitated the Customs to process cargo declaration since August 1, 2022.
The call was contained in a protest letter addressed to the Minister of Finance by the National Chairman of NAGAFF 100% Compliance Team, Ibrahim Tanko, on September 7, 2022.
In the letter, Ibrahim Tanko said, “Overtime, the company has proved grossly incompetent and utterly indifferent to our plight, to the detriment of Nigeria’s economy. The rate at which their server fails is becoming unbearable.
“Since this year, we have witnessed several server failures. Since Thursday August 1, 2022, no single declaration has been treated by the Customs. There is a total shutdown.
“We beg to ask if Webb Fontaine will bear the cost of demurrage that has accumulated. As we write, the Customs is idle. They cannot process import and export entries. You cannot imagine the quantum of loss to the economy.
“On our part, the attendant demurrage has ruined our business and relationships with our shippers and importers. We therefore call out Webb Fontaine as economic saboteurs.
“Over here the restiveness among freight forwarders is brewing hot. We therefore call on your good office to review the contract of the said service provider. A cancellation of the contract is most ideal. Another service provider who is a more proactive and sensitive to our needs must come in.”