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How Nigeria Customs left $120m cargo scanners to rot at border posts

The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) on Monday in Abuja, stunned members of the House of Representatives when it claimed that the 22 cargo scanners purchased at the cost of $120 million by the Federal Government were left to rot away partly because there was no diesel to run generators to power them at the ports and Nigeria’s land border posts.

Acting Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Aliyu Saidu told members of the House of Representatives looking into the mishandling of the 22 cargo scanners, that although the equipment supplied by the manufacturers worked perfectly, there was, however, no diesel to run generators to power them, hence the scanners were left to decay.

Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, at a one-day public hearing by the House Committee on Customs and Excise on Monday, decried the way the scanners were mishandled.

The public hearing was sequel to a resolution on the “need to investigate the lack of transparency in the transfer of technical know-how from Cotecna Destination Inspection Ltd and Global Scan Systems Ltd, which led to the collapse of the multimillion dollars scanners at Nigeria’s ports and border stations.

Gbajabiamila recalled: “In 2006, Nigeria acquired cargo scanners worth more than $120 million, and retained the service providers on Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) terms”.

He stated that the contract also provided that the service providers would provide training and technical support services to NCS on risk management, valuation and classification.

According to him, by the end of 2013, the transition process from COTECNA, SGS Scanning Nigeria Ltd, and Global Scan Systems Nigeria Ltd, the former service providers, was completed and the scanners handed over to the NCS. He added that within a year of the handover, the scanners had stopped functioning and Nigerian ports and borders were again returned to the analogue process of physical examination. He said that the scanners, which were installed at various Customs operation locations at Tin-Can Island Port, Mappa; Port Harcourt Area One Command, Onne Port; and Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano.

Others affected were the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos; Seme and Idi-Iroko borders, Port Harcourt and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airports.

Chairman of the committee, Leke Abejide, said it was disturbing that the Federal Government was not keen about taking serious action on scanners across Nigerian ports, airports and land borders.

He said that most arms and ammunition come through the approved borders, seaports and airports without detection by security operatives.

On his part, Manoj Jagtiani, CEO, Merry Aviation Electronics, said that the company was involved in the management and supply of the scanners. According to him, when the scanners were handed over to the NCS, it made effort to reach out to the Customs in a bid to proffer solution on how the scanners could be managed, but its efforts proved abortive.

According to him, the machines are the most effective, reliable and efficient equipment required to tackle congestion at the ports and to make the Customs’ job more efficient.

However, the acting Comptroller-General of the Customs, Aliyu Saidu, said that the service providers demanded money from NCS to implement the ICT modernisation project.

He added that the NCS refused to pay the money which service was not provided, hence, the service providers backed off from providing the needed support to maintain the scanners. He said although the equipment provided by the manufacturers worked perfectly, but there was no diesel to run the generators, adding that this led to the decay.

Timehin Adelegbe (APC-Ondo), however, noted that if 22 scanners could get damaged and were not repaired, then the issue of saboteurs should not be ruled out. He said that it was worrisome that after 22 scanners were damaged, the country is again pushing to buy another four without consideration for the existing 22 scanners.

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