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Reps’ panel begins probe of abandoned Customs’ scanners in Apapa port

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The House of Representatives Committee on Custom and Excise has begun probe of alleged abandonment of the high calibre mobile scanning machines belonging to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).

Vice Chairman of the committee, Mr. Leke Abejide, expressed displeasure that the scanners, which would have boosted internally-generated revenue by the Customs, had been let to rot away at the Apapa port.

The Kogi-born lawmaker, who led members of the committee on a technical assessment of the facility, assured that the House would leave no stone unturned to unravel the circumstances behind the unfortunate development.

He said: “We have just gone round to see both the mobile and fixed scanning machines. They are in a moribund stage. Nothing is happening there. From what we heard, there are three levels, which were supposed to be trained in. But those that installed them trained them in only one level of maintenance.

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“There is the need for us to investigate deeply into the activities of the era of scanning and see how we can come up with a solution to help the system so that their job can be easier and they can generate more revenue. As it is now, nothing is moving here in the port.

“Look at the access road to the port, a place the government is getting N40 billion per month. I don’t think the construction of this road will take N40 billion. Politics was allowed to come in when it was taken from Cotecna and given to Global Scan even when Cotecna is higher in terms of capacity, knowledge and innovation. When that politics came in, it crippled the system.

“As a parliament, we will investigate it and come out with a solution. We will work with the Customs and all stakeholders on the best way forward.”

However, the Controller of the Apapa Area Command of the NCS, Mohammed Abba-Kura, told the lawmakers that politics was brought into the issue of scanners sometimes in 2015.

According to him, the contract involving Cotecna was revoked and re-awarded to Global Scan.

He stressed that the company lacked the technical capacity to manage the scanners, adding that even the CIR issued by the company were the worst the Customs has ever worked with.

Abba-Kura said: “The issue of politics was brought into the scanning. Even the contract with the service providers, for so many years, Nigeria Customs Service was not part of it. If you want to do a project, you must bring stakeholders to be part of that project because once they are part of it, it will be a success story and a win-win situation.”

“These contracts are normally signed and brought down the throat of the Customs to implement. Before destination inspection, from 1978 when we were doing pre-shipment, we were never part of it. The contract will either be signed from the mother ministry or somewhere in the Executive.

Responding to questions on the cost of the machines, the Controller said: “To be honest, I don’t know the cost. But I know it is really very expensive. But since it is going to secure the country and will lead to more generation of revenue which will equally translate to more development in the country, I think the government should go the whole hug and get scanning machines for us to work.”

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