The Nigeria Customs Service has explained why there is a delay in the auctioning of overtime cargoes sitting idle in the nation’s ports, and the deployment of scanners to ease cargo inspection.
Timi Bomodi, national public relations officer of Customs, told our correspondent that Customs will not auction overtime cargo without following a process guided by rules and regulations.
The growing number of overtime containers, which BusinessDay learnt has risen to 6,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in Apapa, Tin-Can, and Onne Ports, has become a clog in the wheel of ease of doing business at the nation’s seaports and a threat to the safety of lives and property.
Over one year after the NCS invested billions of naira into purchasing electronic scanners to fast-track cargo examination at the port, the agency has yet to put the scanners into use.
Despite taking delivery of new scanners in September 2021, Tin-Can and Onne Ports as well as Seme border still rely on a manual examination of cargo, with Customs agents complaining it takes over five hours to examine one container, thereby creating delays for consignees.
According to Bomodi, the Customs and Excise Management Act classifies a cargo as overtime when it spends 28 days at the port without the consignee coming to either clear or take it out from the port.
“From the 29th day, the cargoes will be moved to uncleared cargo list. But when the Federal Government concessioned the ports, there was no more space given to Customs to warehouse overtime cargoes; that is why most of them are taken to Ikorodu Container Terminal,” Bomodi said on the phone.
He said that after the overtime cargoes have been separated from others, Customs will still give another 60 days grace period for the owners to come for them, after which Customs will make a public announcement and gazette the cargoes.
According to him, it is after the announcement and the gazetting that the government can go ahead to auction the cargoes.
“So, Customs do not just wake up to auction peoples’ cargoes. There is a procedure for it, which is what the Service is following now and when it gets to auction, it is not a hidden thing. We have a website and an online portal where the auction is done. When that time comes, we will also put it up at the portal,” Bomodi said.
In terms of trade facilitation, he said the newly acquired scanners would soon be deployed, and that the finance minister would commission them.
“Scanners are not television sets that people buy and plug in to start working. We have been training the officers that would use them and those that would maintain them. We do not want a situation where we start using the scanners, and after two months, they would develop problems. After we have finished all of that, we will deploy the scanners,” Bomodi said.
He added that the service is rounding off the training for the officers, after which the commissioning and the deployment would take place.