Speaking at a stakeholders’ engagement on Border Closure organised by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) in Lagos recently, Bello Jibo, head, Revenue for Seme Customs, confirmed that Customs presently has two functional scanners at the Seme border command.
According to him, “One scanner was provided by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to us but we have not started using it. We are making use of the old scanner that we have. Though, just recently, the old scanner had a downtime, but we are currently working on it,” Jibo said.
Jibo, who did not give reasons for the inability of Nigeria Customs to put the scanning machine into use for trade facilitation, spoke in response to stakeholders’ demand for the Nigeria Customs to also ensure the availability of processes, procedure, infrastructure, security and protocol for international trade, in addition to closing the border.
Earlier, Hassan Bello, executive secretary of the NSC said there are expectations that the nation’s seaports, would witness rise in business activities following the closure of land borders to international trade, import and export.
“We are having longer waiting days in the anchorage, and we need to put other ports into use. Customs needs to ensure that equipment like scanners are put into use as well to fast trade through quicker cargo clearance,” he advised.
Jibo however disclosed that when the scanner at Seme border was functional, once the goods are scanned and no problem was detected in line with trade guidelines, the cargo would be allowed to go without having to undergo physical examination.
It would be recalled that as part of efforts to enhance seamless cargo inspection as well as trade across borders, the EU acquired and handed over new cargo scanning machines to the NCS and Togolese Customs, before the end of 2018.
Findings show that importance of scanning machines to cargo clearance at ports and other entry points cannot be over-emphasised as businesses in Nigeria including importers that depend on the seaports and borders for the importation of raw materials and other critical production inputs, are currently under cost-driven pressure, following the delays and high cost associated with the manual cargo inspection procedure used by the Customs.
This was why EU acquired two scanners and allocated them to Togo, and Nigeria-Benin Republic border posts with the sole aim of aiding trade along the West African trade corridors.
Also, the scanner was acquired at completion of the newly built Seme-Krake Joint Border Post, which was funded by the EU for the ECOWAS and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA). The new border post was handed over to the governments of Nigeria and Benin in October, 2018.
President Muhammadu Buhari and his Benin counterpart, Patrice Talon, inaugurated the facility in the presence of Ketil Karlsen, head of the EU delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS as well as his colleague in Benin.
The Joint Border Post (JBP) of Sèmè-Kraké was built in the framework of the ECOWAS Road Transport and Transit Facilitation Programme, an integral part of the regional strategy for implementing a comprehensive action programme on infrastructure and road transport.
It was a modern border, built according to international standards to meet the expectations of the ECOWAS people within one of the busiest boundary lines in both West African region and Africa as a whole, due to the huge movement of persons, goods and services daily. In addition to the scanner, every facility in the new border post was provided by the EU, including the chairs.
Aside from having functional scanner at the border, it has become worrisome that five years after the Destination Inspection (DI) service providers handed over some set of fixed and mobile scanning machines worth over $120 million, built and situated in different port locations and border stations, to the management of Customs, the Customs has also failed to fully make use of these machines in clearing cargo.
Currently, over 90 percent of all the containers and general cargoes imported through the nation’s seaports and borders undergo manual inspection process popularly known as 100 percent physical examination.
“This was why the process of clearing imported cargo at the Nigerian ports is currently the longest compared to clearing from other seaports in neigbouring West African ports,” said Tony Anakebe, managing director of Gold-Link Investments Limited, a clearing and forwarding company.