By Oyeniyi Iwakun
SCANNERS: Bane Of Physical Examination At The Nigeria Ports
“The is no wrong time to do the right thing”- Charles M. Blow
As Charles Blow’s apt saying puts it, there is no wrong time for the Nigeria Customs Service to correct the multifarious challenges at the port with the acquisition of functional scanners.
Recently, the Nigeria Customs Service (NSC) Federal Operation Unit (FOU) Zone A, Ikeja showcased what looked like a landmark achievement in the nations anti-smuggling combat. FOU Ikeja gathered several spoils from smugglers of contrabands, whilst the Command reporting several undervalued goods in the last few weeks.
Nigeria is ranked the 15th most failed nation in the world, out of a total of 177 countries that were surveyed. The country has continued to move upwards from the 18th position in 2008 and 17th in 2007. The newly released Failed State Index was published by the United States think-tank, an independent research organization.
Before one begins to commend the Customs for these landslide seizures, several pertinent questions have to be asked such as: why do these smugglers continue in their act despite the seizures? Who are those behind the smugglers? How do they penetrate our borders? How do they outsmart customs officers and other security agencies at the ports? Are the processes for clearing and examination of goods at Nigeria ports ineffective? What are the management strategies being utilized at the ports in relations to advanced nations?
When these questions are answered, it becomes glaring that physical examination of imported goods at Nigerian ports is archaic, fraudulent and cannot stand the test of time. In this 21st century, how many countries endowed with enormous human and natural resources as Nigeria deliberately opt for manual clearing methods at its ports instead of the technologically advanced ones (scanners and other modern equipments? Of course, it can only be dominant in a clientele oriented society like Nigeria. A state where political corruption had become a culture (way of life) and part of the people.
The absence of scanners in the ports has led to so increased malpractices and it set the template for corruption. Apart from its huge economic loss and health risks, the under evaluated and sub-standard goods pose a great security threat to Nigeria.
It is germane for the government to take into cognizance that this poses security threat to the nation already troubled by the Niger Delta militancy, Boko Haram insurgency, cult (secret) clashes through unlawful possession of arms as a result of these illegal importations.
Manual scrutiny method (physical examination} is believed to have been encouraged by some cabals in position of authority to protect their selfish and corrupt interests in government and its implementation agencies.
Various stakeholders have argued that without scanners at the ports the executive order on 24hrs operation in the ports and ease of doing business may not be actualized. Perhaps, it is the set time to get the much needed scanners.
On its part, Customs should consistently disclose the identities and possibly prosecute the owners of these intercepted contrabands with concealed goods through the appropriate agencies rather than publicly showcasing seized goods alone for self aggrandizement.
In addendum to the above, erring officers found wanting on bribery, nepotism, and other forms of corruption should be made scape-goats.