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Operation flaws ground ports’ operations

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…Freight agents call for sack of service providers

IMPORTERS, Freight forwarders and customs brokers have continued to pay demurrages for their goods, following recurring server failures in the Nigeria Customs Service operation, which had hitherto made cargo clearance out of the ports too cumbersome, expensive and time consuming.

  This development has led to calls mounting for the sack of customs internet service providers; Messrs Webb Fontaine for alleged incompetence and delaying genuine trade transactions at the Nigerian ports.

  National Light gathered that the server failure also affects the revenue drive of the various customs commands and that many of the Customs Area Controllers are frustrated but they cannot speak out because the matter is above their pay grade.  Speaking with our correspondent at Apapa Port on Friday, Coordinator of Apapa Chapter of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Comrade Frank Aliakor stated that the server failures had peaked recently and that for three days in a week, the service was down and no transactions could be done. 

  “There has been fluctuations in the server, the Webb Fontaine has been a monopoly, there is no other competitor or service provider, and this problem of server failure is hampering trade and causing delay, the clearing agents and importers are paying demurrages, this is not supposed to be so”.

  “We expect the server system to work 24hours so that trade would be facilitated.

  “Sometimes, we discover that even at the Customs Processing Centre (CPC) the server is not working, also at the terminals and bonded terminals, it is not working, so what do we do?

  “Sometimes, the downtime is up to five hours and the officers would seat down doing nothing, sometimes, for a whole day, officers would seat down doing nothing.

  “Webb Fontaine needs to upgrade their systems, without this nothing can be done. If they fail to do this, there are other companies who want to come into the business and do it better, nobody is above the law, it shouldn’t be a monopoly,” Comrade Aliakor stated.

   The ANLCA Task Force Chairman in Apapa lamented that at the end of the day, nobody is compensating the agent or the importer for the several hours of delays and accrued demurrages from shipping companies and terminal operators.

  Speaking further, he said: “This week, we have experienced server failures, even right now as I speak with you, since Tuesday, Wednesday and today, Friday”.

  “We have complained to the customs authorities but they are handicapped, they cannot enforce anything.

  At the Tin Can Island Port, the trend has also been the same as clearing agents raised alarm of several hours of delay and no work.

  Vice Chairman of ANLCA at Tin Can Chapter, Chief Mike Okolichi confirmed to that stakeholders have been experiencing a downtime in their operations due to the server failures.

  Public relations officer of the chapter, Alhaji Idowu Owoade also confirmed the situation to our correspondent.

  He said, “the server is fluctuating. I have a job that was to be released yesterday, but we could not get it released because of server failures from the customs ”.

  When he was contacted for reactions, the Public Relations Officer of Apapa Customs Command, Mr Abubakar Usman debunked insinuations that the server failures have been incessant.

  He however, confirmed that for Thursday, the server failed three times but it was promptly attended to and resolved.

  According to him, “the command experienced server failure only once since I reported, that was during ACG Abba-Kura’s time.   Even at that, the failure was as a result of thunder storm”.

  “Since then, our operations have been without server hitch except for yesterday’s partial seizure which was promptly restored”.

  “Secondly, agreed it happened three times yesterday. So, If it happens three times out of 365 days or 90 days, does it make it incessant?

  The federal government through the Ministry of Finance in 2015, awarded Webb Fontaine with a contract for Management System nationwide as the Nigerian Customs Integrated System (NICIS II).

  Others are; E-government software products, information and telecommunications technology and infrastructure services, peripherals and consumables, business process re-engineering and standardisation.

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