By Henry Umoru
THE Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Colonel Hameed 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 (APC, Edo North)-led Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, the comptroller general, who was represented by the Acting Comptroller (Tariff) Suleiman Chiroma, said that with the absence of laboratory to effectively carry out its jobs, the Customs, at different times, hired the services of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, SON; the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, and the University of Lagos.
He made the disclosure 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 percent Toyota.
Chiroma said, “The Nigeria Custom 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 were not functioning and instead of using scanners, officials of Customs 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 scanner equipment from Cotecna, SGS Scanning Nigeria Limited and Global Scan Systems Nigeria Limited, the former service providers.
The scanners prior to 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 but are not functional.