The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on Thursday said that the new scanners, which will be deployed at the seaports in the next few weeks, will be able to screen a 20ft container in 35 seconds and a 40ft container in 55 seconds.
Each of the new scanners will also be able to screen up to 400 containers daily, according to Assistant Comptroller General of Customs, Modernisation and ICT, Saidu Galadima.
This is not the first time that Customs will operate scanners at the port. In 2006, three private companies known as destination inspection service providers were engaged by the Federal Government to install and operate scanners at the seaports, airports and land borders. The companies were Cotecna, SGS and Global Scan Systems.
At the expiration of their build-own-operate-transfer contracts in June 2013, the service providers handed over five scanners located in Apapa Port, Tin Can Island Port, Seme and Idiroko land border to the Nigeria Customs Service. Apapa port had two scanners – one fixed and one mobile.
However, Customs officers ensured that the scanners became non-functional within six months of taking them over from the service providers. Stakeholders argue that Customs operatives prefer physical examination of cargo, which is an enabler of corruption.
But while addressing stakeholders on Thursday in Lagos during a sensitisation meeting held with port stakeholders ahead of the fresh commencement of container scanning at the ports, Galadima explained that the new scanners will be operated for 20 hours daily.
“This sensitisation is very key to the success of the non-intrusive technology that Customs is set to commence at the ports. The management of the NCS has directed us to come and sensitise stakeholders on the flow of how the new regime will work.
“The essence behind the new technology is based on trade facilitation. Only compliant traders will celebrate. If you are compliant enough, you won’t have any contact with any Customs officer. Cargoes will be released without anybody needing to go to any Customs office,” he said.
“All activities will start after the scanning process has been completed. When the vessels berth, the containers will be scanned before they are taken to the stacking area where cargo declarations will start. All the scanning processes would have been completed before agents make their declarations.
“On who will be managing the scanners, we have qualified Customs officers who will be manning them. Although, the manufacturer, under our agreement with them, will station their technical personnel to oversee the running of the scanners, which are brand new; our officers have been trained to man those scanners.
“On capacity, the scanners will scan 400 containers daily with four hours to rest. For every 20ft container, the scanner will take an average of 35 seconds each to scan. For every 40ft container, the scanners will scan them at an average of 55 seconds each.”
Galadima said the scanners have been configured into the Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System (NICIS II) online portal.
He also said that clearing agents won’t be allowed in the scanning site.
“The image analysis area will be a ‘no go’ zone for agents. The scanning area will be a controlled area. We won’t allow people loitering there.
“For physical examination, we aim to ensure that the scanning percentage will be higher than the number of containers that will be subjected to physical examination.
“We all have to make it work. If agents decide to cut corners, they will bear the cost of delay associated with a physical examination. So, being compliant will benefit all of us.
“The scanning will be run on the shift of morning, afternoon and perhaps night, depending on the flow of business,” he added.
So far the Federal Government has deployed a scanner each to Onne Port, Rivers State and Tin Can Island Port in Lagos.