By Tordue Salem, Abuja
The National Assembly may be on its way to open investigations on the three calibre mobile scanning machines belonging to the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, worth USD120 million (approximately N48 billion) currently rotting away at the Apapa port.
The Customs Area Controller, CAC, of Apapa Area 1 Command, Mohammed Abba-Kura had, yesterday, told the House Committee on Customs and Excise, that ‘Smiths Hiemann 2533 HCV’ machines which were installed and managed by the multinational shipping firm, Cotecna, has not been put to use since 2015 when the contract with the firm was transferred to another firm”.
The Apapa Customs boss told the House of Representatives Committee on an oversight visit to the Command that “the contract involving Cotecna was revoked and re-awarded to a Nigerian company known as Global Scan”.
Abba-Kura said “The NCS fought seriously to even collect some of the aspects of the function which these service providers were handling such as taking over the scanning machines. Even in the agreement, the service providers need to train Customs officers on all aspects.
“Cotecna is one of the service providers that did very well. They were the ones that installed the fixed scanners and mobile scanners in both Tincan and Apapa ports and they did very well managing them and a lot of officers were trained. Many of us benefited from that training.
“Some of us were privileged to be taken abroad to visit some other ports. But the fixed scanners we have here were more advanced than the ones we have in the Port of Doha.
“From what we have, you are able to scan the container very well and see what is inside it. But if the NCS does not have the money to procure the scanners, what do we do. A lot of bureaucracy comes into accessing these funds even when they are budgeted. You have to go to so many places to achieve what you want.” Though the abandoned scanners are scattered across the country numbering about ten with total purchase value of USD120 million, the ones involving Cotecna at Apapa is worth USD70 million (about N28 billion), according to Vanguard investigations.
Responding to questions on the cost of the machines, the Controller said, “The machines are meant to serve two purposes. One is to generate revenue and the other being security. If the consignment is examined non-intrusively, whatever is inside the container can be seen, a proper assessment will be done and more revenue will be generated.”
Vice-Chairman of the Committee who led the technical Committee on the visit, Rep. Leke Abejide, said the House will carry out a comprehensive investigation and will deepen its inquiry and advise the government on the best way forward.
He said “We have just gone round to see both the mobile and fixed scanning machines. They are in a moribund state and from what we heard, there are three levels which they were supposed to be trained but those that installed them trained them in only one level of maintenance.
“There is the need for us to investigate deeply into the activities of the era of scanning and see how we can come up with a solution to help the system so that their job can be easier and they can generate more revenue.”