It is no longer news that the Federal Government entered into a seven-year contract with Destination Inspection service providers – Cotecna, Global Scan System, SGS and Web Frontaine – to provide scanning services, train Customs officers, provide and maintain Information and Communication Technology (ICT), risk management, classification, valuation and issue Risk Assessment Report in Nigerian seaports, airports and land borders.
The contract, slated to end on December 31, 2012 with the service providers handing over operations to Nigeria Customs, was extended to June 31, 2013 on the basis that Customs still needs to put its house in order before the service can confidently take over the DI scheme.
Findings have shown that service providers have, in line with the contract terms, been able to provide 22 mobile and fixed scanners across the viable entry points of approved Customs designated areas and train about 6,788 Customs officers to be able to take over from them.
Also, the service providers provided an ICT network backbone that enabled Customs to deliver e-Customs services to the trading public, including the development of Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System (NICIS) software application as a platform for interfacing with other stakeholders in the trade supply chain to share information and intelligence on import, export and transit goods.
However, while some industry analysts do not see the readiness of Nigerian Customs Service to take over the DI scheme from the service providers, others see strong indications that Customs will successfully take over the operations from the DI service providers at the termination of the scheme in June.
It would be recalled that Fred Udechukwu, managing director/CEO of Global Scansystems Limited, said recently in Lagos that Customs officers did not have the expertise required to handle the complex equipment used for destination inspection, adding that there was need for more training for Customs officers in order not to jeopardise the aim of the scheme.
In a paper presented to the visiting World Bank delegation to Nigeria on the readiness of NCS to take over DI in July, however, Eugene Nweke, national president, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), said there was a deliberate effort and commitment on the part of Customs to take over its core functions as clearly stated in the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA).
To achieve this, he said the Service engaged experts in ICT to develop an indigenous Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) with capability to overcome the inefficiencies of the previous destination inspection system, such as duplications due to non-integrated systems among the service provider; non-harmonised risk management environment across government agencies; manual documentation and processing of import transactions; and lack of a two-way feedback on assessment outcomes and trends to aid effective risk profiling.
The PAAR application system, Nweke said, is a dynamic, real time and consistent risk-management platform that would partner agencies and banks on matters of classification, valuation, price verification, rules of origin and added value services in a modernised risk management environment.
It will assist authorised officials to perform a comprehensive assessment of imported goods by classifying and valuing them based on international standards and conventions of World Customs Organisation and World Trade Organisation in order to generate a Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) for analysing risk, he added.
“In the effort of Nigeria Customs Service to ensure trade facilitation, the Post-Clearance Audit Department of the Service has been strengthened and made more effective as a tool for trade facilitation,” said Nweke.