By Eguono Odejegba
The dysfunctional state of cargo scanning machines at the ports has started adding to the already congested ports and border posts, Vanguard Maritime Report can authoritatively report.
Customs area commands immediately affected includes Apapa, Tin Can Island, Port Harcourt Area 11, Ogun and Seme Border Commands; and the Jibya Out Station of Katsina/Kaduna Command. Investigations carried out revealed that the situation has worsened in the past two months due to total inability of some of the scanners to function, especially those at the border posts, creating a gradual pillage of unattended cargo trucks.
Stakeholders fear that the cumulative effect of long queue of containerized trucks could trigger another major congestion crises besides the present one at the ports access roads and vicinities caused by lack of adequate holding bays. Added to the congestion is also the security implication of broken down cargo scanners and the seeming inability of government to pay adequate attention to their overall efficient operations.
The situation took a nose dive after the recent reorganizations that saw movements of customs area controllers nationwide. This movement according to sources at the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, has interfered with the regime of ‘self help and personal efforts’ by some area controllers to put their scanners in serviceable conditions at their own expense; a task some of the new CACs are reportedly not willing to undertake.
The sources hinted that prior to this time, some CACs have deployed part of their monthly ‘Authority to Incur Expenses’, AIE, to local servicing of their scanners, and where that is not available or adequate, they resorted to other self help strategies.
While that of Onne port has been out of service for a long time, the sources indicated that recourse to non-conventional measures to partially make up for the non functional broken down scanner has not been explored.
While the Onne situation is believed to pose serious security and safety risks, the broken down Seme and Jibya scanners have also assumed a worrisome state as operatives of relevant agencies have become incapacitated in efficient monitoring of imports, especially since the border posts constitute the greatest possible porous risks.
Vanguard Maritime Report gathered that some Indian mechanics and fitters engaged by the leadership of the Seme Command to service the scanner recently made a further requisition of N1.8million expense for spare parts, which the management says it has no means of raising.
The mechanics were sighted by Vanguard Maritime Reports at the scanning site smoking, drinking and playing games.
Sources close to the Seme Customs informed that whereas the immediate past CAC struggled all the time to get the scanner running even though not at top efficiency, the new leadership is said to have a different approach and believe that when the cost exceeds certain limit, the headquarters should take charge.
Recall that Vanguard Maritime Report in a recent exclusive report, alerted the nation to delay associated with the installation of new scanners, for which customs and terminal operators were having a row over space.
While some area commands maintain the position that their respective scanners are working, some others admit that the scanners have become moribund due to lack of maintenance.
Immediate past Onne Customs boss, Comptroller Ababukar Bashir, told our reporter last year that customs job cannot wait on account of broken down scanners.
Stakeholders have continued to decry the bastardization of the import inspection regime driven by cargo scanners.