Operators lament huge debts caused by service provider’s inefficiency
Customs agents and importers are not happy with Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and Webb Fontaine over N150 billion debts incurred as a result of server failure at the seaports.
Webb Fontaine was appointed by Nigeria Customs Service to implement a single window called Nigerian Customs Integrated System (NICIS II). The platform, which belongs to Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is a software specially created to enhance seamless cargo clearing.
However, since last year, it has been impeding cargo clearing. The port users said that they had been having series of problems with the firm for over seven years because of its epileptic service, which has led to huge payment of demurrage and storage charges to shipping companies and terminal operators.
According to agents under the umbrella of Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Importers Exporters Coalition (SNFFIEC), the incessant server failure has led to delay in cargo clearing and a weekly loss of over N50 billion to importers in the last three weeks.
Chairman of the group, Osita Chukwu, explained that nobody had addressed the server problem in the port. He noted that the group had decided to drag the NCS and Webb Fontaine to court to demand N100 billion compensation for importers for losses incured.
The chairman lamented that NCS had not put efforts to rise up to the challenge being created by Webb Fontaine. Chukwu said: “We have made a proposal to Nigeria Customs Service to allow us to bring in somebody from the United States to address the server issue, but to no avail.
“Every time they keep telling us the server is down, so what happens to the demurrage that we the users are paying? Nobody talks about that.
“Whenever the issue of server failure concerns the shipping companies, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) will compel them to pay whatever demurrage that may have accrued and they always comply.
But whenever it happens in Customs, they don’t care and agents are feeling so bad that nothing is being done to get to the logical conclusion of this matter.”
He stressed the need for government to address the server failure holistically without delay, noting that the group had decided to wage war with Web Fontaine on server failure. “Server may fail once or thrice in a year but not on a daily or weekly basis,” he explained.
Last year, Customs agents complained that they could not clear their vehicles at Five Stars Logistics Terminal as Nigeria Customs Integrated Service 2 (NCIS II) failed to capture the consignments packed in the vehicles. Besides, there was no functional scanning machine at the port to aid clearing.
According to the Association of Nigerian Customs Licensed Agents (ANLCA), importers and customs agents are finding it difficult to move out their vehicles at the terminal as they cannot interact with other control agencies such as National Agency For Food And Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) due to poor service.
The association added that importers had been paying huge demurrage because of the inability of the platform to recognise consignments inside used vehicles.