This is not acceptable, from no Scanner to no Laboratory, Senate Fumes
By Henry Umoru
THE Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali, retd has told the Senate that the Service does not have a single laboratory to carry out Sample tests of products.
Disclosing this when he appeared before the Senator Francis Alimikhena, All Progressives Congress, APC, Edo North led Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, the Comptroller General of NCS who was represented by the Acting Comptroller ( Tariff) Suleiman Chiroma said that with the absence of laboratory to effectively carry out its jobs, the Service at different times, hired the services of Standards Organisation of Nigeria, SON; the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC and the University of Lagos.
The disclosure was during an Interactive session following the summoning of Customs boss by the Senate Committee over excessive customs duty being paid to the NCS by the Nigeria Bottling Company, NBC, producers of Coca-Cola drinks arbitrary increase of Pre- Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) transaction value to 200% Toyota.
Chiroma said, ” the Nigeria Customs Service has no Laboratory to check items and carry out Sample tests hence we go to other sister organisations for Laboratory tests.
Recall that the Customs had told the Senate that its scanners are not functioning and Instead of using scanners, officials of Custom Service use physical examination, which is more cumbersome and time-consuming.
It will also be recalled that the NCS in 2013 inherited about $120 million in scanner equipment from Cotecna, SGS Scanning Nigeria Limited, and Global Scan Systems Nigeria Limited, the former service providers.
These scanners before that time were not even in good working condition, rather, they continued to rot away, even as the Senate discovered that all inherited scanners had broken down, thus, making it mandatory for cargos to be physically examined at the ports and border stations in the country.
The Senate also gathered that scanning machines were installed at various customs operational locations such as Tin Can Island Port, Port Harcourt Area One Command, Onne Port, Kano, Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Seme and Idi-Oroke borders, Port Harcourt and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airports, Banki border among others and not functional.
Angered by these developments, the Senator Alimikhena led Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff has said that situations where revenue-generating agency like the NCS not having a Laboratory and Scanners was not acceptable and must be urgently addressed.
The Committee said, ” A situation where a government organisation like the Nigeria Customs Service goes to other organisations to carry out Sample tests is ridiculous, it is not acceptable, it portrays a very bad image on Nigeria as a country. It is high time Customs sat and have its laboratory, last time, Customs said, no scanners, this is absurd, go and put it in place.”
Following arguments between Customs and NBC over the huge Customs Duty thereby making marketing difficult for the producers of Coca-Cola, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Alimikhena who urged Customs to put a human face in their actions as very stiff positions will drive away these companies from Nigeria and Nigerians who are working there will suffer.
He asked both the Customs and NBC to go and carry out a fresh analysis of NBC components against the backdrop that the earlier analysis carried out by both SON, NAFDAC, and the University of Lagos have become controversial because the samples earlier carried out by NAFDAC and SON came out with the same results, but that of the University of Lagos was different.