Stakeholders in Nigeria’s cargo evacuation business at the ports have stated that the imbroglio surrounding the replacement of faulty scanners at the nation’s seaports is down to a flawed port concession agreement signed between the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the terminal operators in 2006.
Speaking to the Nigerian Tribune, President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu, explained that the difficulty in replacing the faulty scanners is down to the lacuna left behind when the ports concession was signed.
According to him, “it is true that the CEMA Act say’s that the port authority should provide everything in terms of operational tools for the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) at the ports, however if it’s not in the concession agreement, then it’s not binding on the seaport terminal operators.
“The CEMA should have been reflected in that concession agreement signed 10 years ago. CEMA was not specific on what to provide and did not mention scanners. CEMA said NPA shall provide all the tools of operation for the Customs.
“Now that NPA has handed over their operations to the terminal operators, this is just one of those lacunas that are now rearing its head 10 years after the ports have been concessioned.
“Don’t forget that the Senate Committee referred to what plays out at the airport, where the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), who is the airport operator provides scanners for the Customs. It is based on this that the Senate committee hinged its argument that terminal operators, who NPA has ceded their responsibility to as port operators, should provide scanners.
“But how come for the past 10 years, nobody remembered the CEMA? Even during the ports concession agreements, CEMA was not reflected. How come that neither the NPA, nor the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) remembered to reflect that provision of CEMA into the concession agreement when it was signed?
“Was CEMA not there before the provision of scanners was handed over to the Destination Inspection Companies? That section 13 of the CEMA which states that the port operator will provide all necessary operational tools for the Customs was there before government went and signed the Destination Inspection contracts. So we cannot blame the terminal operators. If its not part of the concession agreement, then it is not binding on them. we cannot hold them responsible for the failed scanners.”
Also speaking to the Nigerian Tribune in a separate chat, the Founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Boniface Aniebonam explained that the contractual terms the terminal operators signed does not include provision of scanners.
“The ports concession agreement the terminal operators signed does not include the provision of scanners. Yes, CEMA section 13 says the port operator will provide every operational tool for the Customs at the ports, but what was signed in 2006 does not include scanners.
“Scanners are risk management tools of the Nigerian Customs Service. Since the destination inspection companies handed over scanners to the customs, then the scanners are under customs”
It will be recalled that the Senate Committee on Customs and Excise had asked terminal operators to provide scanners for the Nigerian Customs Service or get their contract terminated.