In June of 2019, a report on the Seminar of Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation in Radisson Blu Hotel in Ikeja, was published.
That report on the business potentials of installing scanners at especially our seaports, elicited great attention, to the extent that several interested corporates and individuals called in to be further enlightened about the possibility of generating Sixty billion Naira annually, by just charging one thousand Naira per scanning of one TEU, was of major concern.
Good as it sounds, getting it off the ground for interested entities became a major challenge.
Reasons being that the hurdles on the way to getting those who could ordinarily suggest the installation of Scanners/CCTV cameras to be installed at all our international boundaries, are so enormous, to the extent of discouraging one’s thinking of the possibility.
And so, it was gratifying to note that several heads of some stakeholders’ government agencies recently came out to make cases for the urgent need for the installation of scanners at the Ports, which, according to them will aid the ease of doing business in the Ports, guarantee security of goods and persons, enhance revenue collection by Nigeria Customs, eliminate or reduce to the barest minimum human contact, and drastically reduce corruption to the barest minimum in the Ports system.
Of recent, those who should have been consistent and strident in the advocacy for the installation of scanners at our seaports, airports and Border Stations, have become so audacious and very serious about the demands for enhancement of cargo clearance processes in the Ports.
Components of tropicalized, rugged scanners installation are CCTV cameras, OEM establishment to provide spare parts and robust training and retraining of the operators (Customs personnel) of the scanners.
From the office of the Vice President’s PEBEC – Dr. Mrs. Jumoke Oduwole, to the Executive Secretary/CEO of Shippers Council – Barr Hassan Bello, the MD/CEO of Nigeria ports Authority – Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, to the recurring yearly sing-song on scanners by Comptroller General of Customs – Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd), then to the STOAN chairperson, the amazon of terminal operations and Executive Vice Chairman of ENL consortium – Princess Dr. Mrs Vicky Haastrup, to her former sectoral partner at the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and immediate past National President of ANLCA – Prince Olayiwola Shittu, it has all been the same battle cry of “install scanners and automate the processes at the ports” to entrench at least COVID-19 protocols of safe distancing, engender clearance of Cargoes from comforts of offices/homes without stress, securing lives and properties, ensuring sustainable efficiencies in the Ports, reduction in cost of doing business, and maintain a good healthy life, especially for Customs Brokers.
Quite commendable are efforts at publicizing these Scanners-in-the-Ports advocacies by the online maritime press and some of the mainstream Press also. They should persist, until Scanners installations in the Ports are at least achieved. Thanks to them all.
Most gratifying are the assurances coming from the Comptroller General of Customs that scanners will be in place at the ports before the end of 2020. Our Maritime Press must continue to focus on this until achieved, by continuously interrogating the processes leading to the actual installations.
What is left, it is believed, is the sustenance of the promise by the CGC, and keeping a trained focus by all stakeholders and a concentration on the processes leading up to the actualization of the installation of the scanners on or before the December 2020 timeline. That way, we will all be the winners.
Another heart-warming promise is that by the Executive Secretary of NSC who, during a Radio Nigeria early morning program, mentioned that by March 2021, almost 98% of all transactional Ports processes would have been automated. That is a low hanging fruit that is assumed achieved without any problem. From the progress so far made by some of the Shipping Companies, Terminal Operators and government agencies, automation of transactional processes by March 2021 is a foregone conclusion. Reminders to that effect will keep recurring, in order to keep all our eyes on the ball.
At a chance meeting recently, Barr Hassan Bello was reminded of this, and advised to etch his name in Gold, by ensuring he brings that his automation of ports processes to fruition, thereby leaving a legacy of having come, seen and left a landmark achievement.
The automation must be total within the Shipping companies and Terminal operations. That means all invoicing, payments, confirmations and issuance of Delivery Orders (DO) and Terminal Delivery Orders (TDO) are obtained online and submitted to truckers to pick up such released cargoes without human interaction.
Vehicles ex-factory prices must, without much ado, be activated without any further delay because it is the easiest thing that can be done, as several less endowed African countries have long done it and earning more revenue, while ensuring transparent transactions within their Ports system.
Again, the importance of scanners at the ports to aid Cargo clearance processes can never be over emphasized, especially in Nigeria, which has a peculiar environment, where it seems that corruption is more Nigerian, than alien in our environment.
If truth must be told, the part of the cargo delivery process that attracts the heaviest human traffic and biggest human interactions, is at the terminals’ examination/inspection bays.
At these bases, lots of delays are experienced, as much as “lots” goes on there.
Scanners replacing these bays ensure the minimization/elimination of human interaction which creates room for corruptive tendencies, slows down cargo delivery processes, accentuates a drag in ease-of-doing-business and hampers trade facilitation.
Similarly, CCTV cameras installed at the terminals area, exit gates zones, and at the Customs Processing Centers, will definitely assist in security monitoring of Cargoes and persons, such that Cargoes being delayed from exit or being reexamined at the gates are immediately interdicted and corrected. This monitoring ensured from the control rooms of the CCTV cameras.
Along with that is the possible elimination of crowding in the Ports which can be easily achieved by profiling all Customs licensed Brokers, through the instrumentality and collaboration of Nigeria Customs Service, and in active collaboration with NPA, NSC and Security Agencies. Nigeria must not shy away from a headlong challenge of these nagging problems.
If all, or 70% of issues raised herein can be implemented or achieved by the set dates of December 2020 and March 2021, then Nigeria is on its way to joining the comity of Nations that are facilitating trade across international boundaries, and a predictable revenue upsurge for the Federal Government of
Nigeria is guaranteed, while the health of Port users and that of importers/exporters will remain topnotch.
Every other thing that comes with, or after these installations falls in place easily without any delay or second-guessing.
If other smaller, less endowed countries can do it, Nigeria can also do it better, bigger, sustainably, and therefore guarantee the efficiency of its Ports system.
Let us all get to work and remain focused.
Opinions are not direct or indirect views of Maritime First