- Alleges revenue target frustration, bad personnel training
- Webb Fontaine boss admits integrity question
Emboldened by the litany of complaints of failed services from importers, the Nigeria Customs Service(NCS) has officially made known its intention to take over the control of its trade digital platform from Webb Fontaine, the service’s Information, Communication and Technology(ICT) contractor.
Speaking at an public investigative hearing at the National Assembly, Comptroller Kingsley Chukwuemeka, the controller in charge of ICT and Modernisation at the Customs headquarters, Abuja stated that the continual but steady system failure and downtime experienced by importers who often ignorantly blame Customs has called for serious concern especially against the background of customer service relationship management.
He asserted that it is frustrating the NCS efforts at meeting its set target, hence they want to take over the platform and administer the management.
Compt Chukwuemeka, who was speaking before the House Committee Chairman on Customs and Excise, Hon. Leke Abejide-led Committee of the House, added that it was a waste of time and resources, continuing to maintain the contract with Webb Fontaine.
The Comptroller complained that Webb Fontaine neither delivered quality ICT services, nor gave satisfactory training to Customs personnel under the contract, entered on its behalf by the Federal Ministry of Finance at the instance of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Compt. Chukwuemeka explained that his table was filled with complaints of service failures and down-time, from Comptrollers of Area Commands, who have frustrated importers. These frustrations made importers to blame the Customs for their woes, which in turn frustrate government’s efforts to make more money.
He lamented that “if you go to my table now, it is filled with complaints. We want to takeover operations and ownership,”
“Webb Fontaine has been training our officers to take over, but training is not satisfactory”, he averred.
In his response, the Managing Director of Webb Fontaine, Mr. Ope Babalola, said they were aware of all the complaints by Customs, but argued that the problems were not as allegedly exaggerated at the investigative hearing.
“We have found reports of down-time strange because, that has not been our experience”, he claimed.
Babalola said that they had engineers on ground who attended all issues at all levels, as they arise.
“Whenever there are issues, we always respond as quick as possible”, he said, adding that, “we have site support engineers, and we have trained NCS officers to work with them.”
Responding, Chairman of the Committee, Leke Abejide, said that the problem has become worrisome as he complained that often there was no access to the website, and that when it was even accessed, it would immediately suffer collapse to the detriment of the importers.
Hon. Abejide frowned at the situation in which complaints by importers that they were losing money due to delays in accessing the website has no solution since nobody refunded them the money they lost
Customs Promotes Officers Across Board
Meanwhile, NCS has embarked on a major promotion exercise at the top management hierarchy with the elevation of some members of staff to the position of Deputy Comptroller General(DCG) and Assistant Comptroller General(ACG) in acting capacity.
Recall that some top members of the service retired from the system in December, 2022, creating a huge vacuum in the process.
Among those promoted are: The Customs Area Controller(CAC) of Apapa Area 1 Customs Command, Comptroller Yusuf Malanta, now ACG, ICT; Compt, Musa MBA, now ACG, Tariff and Trade; ACG, Jibo ACG Headquarters; ACG Suleiman Bomi.
Among those promoted DCG are: DCG, Gumi, T&T; DCG Edore, FATS; acting DCG Abba Kura, E.I&I; and DCG Saidu G, Human Resources Department (HRD).
Some of the CAC that have now been promoted are; Apapa Customs Comptroller, Yusuf Malanta, PTML Command Controller, Suleiman Bomai, Seme Customs Command Controller, Mohammed Jibo as well as Musa MBA.
Recall that last week, the Board of the NCS had announced appointment of three Assistant Comptrollers General (ACGs) as well as the promotion of 1, 490 senior officers of General Duty and Support Staff to various ranks with effect from 1st January 2022.
The Assistant Comptrollers General whose appointments approved are ACG Greg Itotoh, ACG Festus Okun and ACG Shuaibu Ibrahim.
In a statement by the Service, the newly promoted Comptrollers include the Customs National PRO Timi Bomodi, Musa Omale, Zanna Chiroma, Stanley Nwankwo, Ajibola Odusanya, Paul Ekpenyong, Abubakar Umar, Maureen Ajuzieogu and MO Bewaji.
64 Deputy Comptrollers (DCs) promoted to Comptrollers of Customs (CCs), 128 Assistant Comptrollers (ACs) to Deputy Comptrollers (DCs), 89 Chief Superintendent of Customs (CSCs) to Assistant Comptrollers (ACs) and 220 Superintendents of Customs (SCs) to Chief Superintendent Customs (CSCs).
Others are 107 Deputy Superintendents of Customs (DSCs) promoted to Superintendents of Customs (SCs), 302 Assistant Superintendents of Customs I (ASC I) to Deputy Superintendents of Customs (DSCs), 223 Assistant Superintendents of Customs II (ASC II) to Assistant Superintendents of Customs I (ASC I) and 357 Inspectors of Customs (ICs) promoted to Assistant Superintendents of Customs II (ASC II).
The statement added that the management of Nigeria Customs earlier approved the promotion of 1, 252 men within the ranks of Inspectors and Customs Assistant cadres.