· Customs pre-empt concession, appoints ACG Modernization
· Nigerian airports can help apprehend criminals – Ojikutu
By Kenneth Jukpor & Ayoola Olaitan
Contrary to reports in the public domain that global shipping firms introduced the recent 400 percent hike in peak season surcharges (PSS) to exploit shippers in Nigeria, there are indications that the idea was championed by shipping agents in the country.
Our correspondent gathered that shipping agents approached the multinational shipping firms in the country with the initiative in a bid to extract some monetary gains if the new fiscal policy was allowed to thrive.
Their plans, however, were foiled after Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) galvanized national and regional support to kick against the move, causing the shipping companies to retrace their steps a few weeks later.
MMS Plus also gathered that the fear of appearing before Nigeria’s National Assembly for public interrogations over the arbitrary surcharge as invited in addition to other protests triggered the suspension of the PSS in Nigeria and other transatlantic shipping routes. The Senate had written the multinational shipping firms to appear before it and defend its action.
As a result of the pressure from the shipping community and Organized Private Sector (OPS) groups, the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) suspended application of the surcharge from September 1st, 2020 and French Container Transportation and Shipping Company, CMA CGM followed suit by suspending the application of the peak season surcharge on ships calling in Nigeria from the 1st of October, 2020.
Recall that NSC recently convened a meeting of the Organized Private Sector groups to deliberate on the astronomical peak season surcharge imposed by shipping lines calling in Nigeria.
The Union of African Shippers’ Council (UASC) also backed Shippers’ Council as it also called for immediate suspension of the peak season surcharge describing it as a violation of previous UASC/European Community Ship-owners Association (ECSA) agreement requiring prior, mutual and reasonable notification of UASC and PMAWCA by individual shipping companies before any such imposition of new tariff, surcharges or increase in transport cost.
Meanwhile, efforts to get the Federal Government reconsider its decision to proceed with the Customs Modernization Project may be futile as Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) announced the appointment of an Assistant Comptroller-General (ACG) in-charge of Information Communication Technology (ICT) and Modernization, Saidu Galadima.
Recall that MMS Plus disclosed a fortnight ago that the Service has concluded plans to appoint an ACG in-charge of modernization after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) announced the $3.1 billion concession known as Customs Modernization Project awarded to Messrs E-Customs HC Project Limited.
This is coming on the heels of reports that most senior officers in the Service, from Deputy Controllers upward have been compromised to allow the concession take place without fuss as they were assured frequent promotions and opportunities at consultants upon retirement.
Freight forwarding groups have been demoralized, jettisoning plans to engage the Federal Government on the shortcomings in the Customs Modernization Project as senior officers of the Service are reluctant to comment on the development which threatens the relevance of Customs.
One of the Presidents of a freight forwarding group told our correspondents that freight agents wouldn’t be seen to be crying more than the bereaved.
“Why should freight forwarders be fighting for Customs on this issue of Modernization Projects when the senior officers have endorsed it? An ACG has already been appointed for Modernization and others have been given assurances of promotion. How do we fight for people who are less concerned? We can only wait to see how events unfold with this project and hope for the best,” he said.
Meanwhile, the National Public Relations Officer, NCS, Mr. Joseph Attah confirmed the new appointment in a press statement on Thursday last week, announcing two new Deputy Comptroller-Generals (DCG) and five new Assistant Comptroller-Generals (ACG).
The new DCGs are; Abdullahi Babani (Human Resources Development) and Mohammed Boyi (Training and Doctrine); while the new ACGs include Saidu Galadima (ICT/Modernization), S.M. Modibbo (Zone ‘8’ HQ), Uba Mohammed (Enforcement, Intelligence and Investigation), Hamza Gummi (Tariff & Trade), and Usman Dakingari (Doctrine & Development).
Others redeployed include DCG David Chikan from TRADOC to FATS; Comptroller Mohammed Auwal from Port Harcourt 1 to Port Harcourt 2, Comptroller Yusuf Garba from Kebbi to Port Harcourt 1, Comptroller Hafiz Kalla from FATS to Kebbi, and Comptroller Bello Jibo from Bauchi/Gombe to Seme.
While the Federal Government and the concessionaires have hidden details of the deal especially on how the revenue will be generated and how the concessionaires will make their return on investment, the projection to generate $176billion within a 20-year contract has also raised concerns.
Industry observers have also lamented that NCS has spent over N300billion ($7.5bn) in the last ten years for the various stages of Customs modernization from different versions of ASYCUDA project to Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR), among others with thousands of officers trained.
The concessionaires-consortium, Messrs E-Customs HC Project Limited, will be paid N2.93bn($7.33m) monthly as 1 percent of the income value under the Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS) while they earn $88m annually and $1.76bn in 20 years if CISS is the investment re-payment model. However, there is a mismatch in the deal is that the investors cannot invest $3.1bn in 20 years and earn $1.76bn in the same period, stakeholders have noted; saying that the rational discrepancies are questionable.
In another development, as part of efforts to improve the Nigerian security system and prevent criminals from accessing flights, airports could become the hot spot to apprehend criminals in Nigeria with the deployment of smart technologies.
Aviation experts have highlighted the need to have better intelligence gathering systems at the airports in a bid to curb criminals and wanted persons from travelling via flights.
The Secretary General of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative and Chief Executive Officer, Centurion Securities, Group Captain John Ojikutu (Rtd), made this call while speaking with MMS Plus during an exclusive chat, last week.
Noting that criminals and other persons wanted for illegal activities have been able to utilize the nation’s airports, Ojukutu stated that enhanced security intelligence systems at the airports would see such persons classified under a list known as ‘No Flying’ and arrested at airports.
His words: “During pre-passenger screening there is a need for Nigeria to introduce intelligence gathering to check people before they get to the airports. All the suspected members of Boko Haram and others who have been flagged as wanted persons for one reason or another can be apprehended via such intelligence platforms. How many of such people have been apprehended at the airports? The problem is that the airports lack intelligence and Nigeria cannot claim to have top security at the airports without this basic intelligence framework.”
“All those causing various degrees of trouble for the nation still find a way to access and utilize the airports. Therefore, we must find a way to smartly do checks and apprehend them at airports. Crucial details of such persons could be disseminated among airlines so that as soon as they make a reservation at any airport or airline the security agencies are notified to arrest them.”