Dr. Afolabi

Worried by the repeated cases of illegal importation of arms and ammunition into the country through the seaports, the Group Executive Vice Chairman of SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, has urged the Federal Government to expedite action on the provision of scanners at various seaports in the country.

Recall that the Nigeria Customs Service has in the last eight months seized four consignments of arms comprising of a total of 2,671 units of assorted types of pump action guns at the Tin Can Island Port Complex, Lagos.

Afolabi, who expressed displeasure over Federal Government’s slow pace in handling the problem of faulty scanners at the various ports and land border stations across the country, said that officers and men of the service have been left with the only option of carrying out 100 per cent physical examination on imported cargo, with the attendant risk of compromising national security as well as inherent delays.

“Within eight months, the number of illegal arms that have been imported into the country through the port is staggering and distressing. I am convinced that the absence of needed facilities like the scanner at the ports is what has emboldened these unpatriotic criminals to keep importing these arms. There is little that the Customs can do to prevent this when they are not well equipped.

“I am worried that the Federal Government has not shown the kind of swift response and decisiveness that this illegal importation demands. The way to go is to urgently provide scanners at the port”, he said.

The SIFAX-boss also argued that in addition to the possibility of compromising national security and causing avoidable delays, the absence of scanning facilities will also hinder the economic direction of the government as contained in the Ease of Doing Business executive order signed months ago by the then acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo some months ago.

He also said: “The cargo clearing process under the present condition, would remain cumbersome and make the seaports unattractive and without any competitive edge”.

“To address the problem of the provision of the scanners, the government to take advantage of private sector financing, in view of the current dwindling financial capability of government. I have been an advocate of concessioning the port scanning services in the country. The country is just exiting recession and the government does not have the financial muscle to undertake this kind of huge capital investment”

“Just like the government concessioned the seaports in 2006, which has yielded great results and turned the maritime sector around, the concessioning of the port scanning services will also help in improving efficiency at the port and curb the dangers associated with 100% physical examination currently being embarked upon by men of the Nigeria Customs Service”.

He therefore urged the government to expedite action in the concessioning scanning services at the ports, arguing that terminal operators are capable of investing in the scanning services to create more revenue for the country, curb the importation of arms and other dangerous cargoes into the country.

Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali had while briefing newsmen during the seizure of the last 470 pieces of pump action guns penultimate week, had admitted that the absence of scanners constitutes a hindrance efficient cargo inspection.

He also disclosed that the service had sent a memo to the Federal Executive Council to that effect, which is yet to be approved.