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Customs porter unreliable for 16 years, says freight forwarders 

By Sulaimon Salau
11 September 2022   |   4:06 am
Concerned freight forwarders in the country have bemoaned the inconsistency of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) portal for over 16 years of operation by Webb Fontaine, an Information Technology (IT) firm.

Concerned freight forwarders in the country have bemoaned the inconsistency of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) portal for over 16 years of operation by Webb Fontaine, an Information Technology (IT) firm.
   
Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics in Nigeria (APFFLON), in a protest letter, titled, ‘Nigeria Ports Crisis: Why FG Shouldn’t Renew Webb Fontaine Contract,’ alleged that the company’s 16-year management of Customs portal has been characterised by consistent server breakdown, which either connotes gross inefficiency or a nonchalant work culture by the organisation.
   
The letter signed by APFFLON National President, Otunba Frank Ogunojemite, called on the Federal Government to terminate the IT infrastructure contract of Webb Fontaine for the Nigeria Customs Service and engage a reliable IT service provider. 
   


Currently, Webb Fontaine is the service provider that provides IT infrastructure for the Customs.
 
The freight agents described the IT service provider operations to customs as sabotage to the nation’s revenue drive, calling on the Finance Ministry to look inward by probing its operations in Nigerian ports.
 
He noted that the firm’s operations should be queried, adding that the company’s shortcomings have resulted in numerous challenges facing port operations.
   
“As the contract of Webb Fontaine, the official technology partner for the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) ends in December 2022, Nigerian importers, freight forwarders and the nation’s entire maritime sector should receive a breath of fresh air without Webb Fontaine, because the services or the company have been an economic sabotage to the nation.
   
“Since 2006, when the company began its technical support service for Customs, Nigerian importers have suffered colossal fiscal losses from downtime at every port and terminal in the nation. This additional cost leads to higher prices for imported goods (infraction), impoverishing Nigerians while the company suffers no losses.

“Over the years, there have been no sensitisation or stakeholders engagement by Webb Fontaine on its operations or any regret or public apology for the losses the importers and other ports’ users were subjected to, leaving aggrieved ports users to blame Customs officials and the NCS management for server disruptions,” Ogunojemite said.

Also, freight forwarders, under the aegis of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), had earlier expressed concerns over the inconsistency of server breakdown.

National Chairman of NAGAFF 100% Compliance Team, Ibrahim Tanko, in a protest letter addressed to the Minister of Finance, said “over time, the company has proved grossly incompetent and utterly indifferent to our plight, to the detriment of Nigeria’s economy. The rate at which their server fails is becoming unbearable.

“Since this year, we have witnessed several server failures. Since Thursday, August 1, 2022, no single declaration has been treated by the Customs. There is a total shutdown.
 
“We beg to ask if Webb Fontaine will bear the cost of demurrage that has accumulated. As we write, the Customs is idle. They cannot process import and export entries. You cannot imagine the quantum of loss to the economy.
 
“On our part, the attendant demurrage has ruined our business and relationships with our shippers and importers. We therefore call out Webb Fontaine as economic saboteurs,” he said.