says scanners are tools to be acquired by terminal operators
By Godfrey Bivbere
FORMER Comptroller General of Customs, Hammed Bello Ahmed, has faulted the acquisition of new scanners by the Federal Government for Lagos and Onne ports, stressing that scanners are cargo clearance tools that should be acquired by the terminal operators.
Ahmed, in an exclusive interview with Vanguard Maritime Report said that scanners are like folk-lift and other tools used at the ports for cargo clearance.
He explained that the provision of scanners by the government will lead to double taxation on importers for scanning services.
The former Customs helmsman said the importer will not only pay Customs for the scanning services but will be made to pay for loading of the container on the truck as well as its movement to the scanning site and back.
He stated: “The law says that scanner is a tool. Did the government buy folk-lift for terminal operators? A scanner is a tool that is used for examination of goods, if the scanner is not there, whose responsibility is it to discharge and offload goods for Customs to examine?
“Before the concessioning of the ports, the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, was in charge of the terminal. They were the people in custody of the goods; they employed labour, bought cranes, and what have you for purposes of discharge and positioning of goods for examination.
“The law is there. It is the responsibility of the terminal operator or the administrator of the port to bring down containers, open the container, offload the container to the satisfaction of the Customs officer for examination.
“Once the Customs officer completes the examination and they are satisfied, they will say okay put it back. The container is reloaded, locked, taken back, and packed until the cargo is delivered. Now if the government is buying the scanner today, then I think it is better for them to also buy folk-lifts, cranes and what have you and bring in labour. Those they concessioned the port terminals to, if they do not have the capacity to manage the port, then they better pack up and give people that have the capacity to manage it.
“The issue of scanner, I consider scanner as a tool for examination in order to make it easy for them rather than employ labour, bring folk-lift, bring all the other necessary tools that is why the scanner is needed.
“You do not need to open the container; you do not need to offload it. If the images shown by the scanners display a different thing from what is declared in the document; for example, if the declaration says packages and then there is an image showing something other than packages; then there will be the need for positioning of the container to 100 per cent physical examination.
“So, whose responsibility is it to open, to discharge the content of the container? Is it not the terminal operator? So if the government buys the scanner now, the terminal operators are going to charge importers certain fees to the scanner and then the terminal operator who carries the container and takes it for scanning will also charge the importer.
“So there will be double charges. My advice is that those that they concessioned the ports to are the people that have the responsibility to produce tools because they are going to charge the importer. They must provide tools for the examination of goods, that is my take on the issue.”
Recall that the Coordinator of Zone “A” of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Modupe Aremu, had said that the Federal Ministry of Finance has acquired three scanners for installation at the Lagos and Onne ports this month.
The zonal coordinator explained that acquiring and deploying the scanners in Apapa, Tin Can, and Onne ports would help strengthen the fight against smugglers.