The House of Representatives’ Committee on Customs and Excise, on Monday, grilled top officials of the Federal Government over the abandonment of 22 cargo scanners that cost taxpayers $120m at the seaports, airports and land borders.
The Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, while declaring the hearing open, noted that the investigation was to unravel the circumstances surrounding the sudden failure of scanners after the private partners handed over the facilities to Nigerian government.
Gbajabiamila, who was represented by Chairman of the Committee on House Services, Mr Olawale Raji, recalled that in 2006, Nigeria acquired the scanners and retained the service providers on Build, Own, Operate and Transfer terms.
The scanners were handed over to the Customs on December 1, 2013.
The Speaker further recalled that the contract also provided that the service providers would offer training and technical support services to the Nigeria Customs Service on risk management, valuation and classification.
He said, “By the end of 2013, the transition process from COTECNA, SGS Scanning Nigeria Limited and Global Scan Systems Nigeria Limited, the former service providers, was completed and the scanners handed over to the Nigeria Customs Service.
“However, within a year of the handover, the scanners had stopped functioning and Nigerian ports and borders were once again returned to the analogue process of physical examination.
“The scanners, which were installed at various Customs operation locations such as Tin Can Island Port, Apapa Port, Port Harcourt Area One Command, Onne Port, Aminu Kano International Airport, Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, Seme and Idi-Iroko borders, Port Harcourt and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airports, among others, are still currently non-functioning.
“Our purpose here today is to ascertain what happened to those machines, and to determine why despite the massive investments in the sector, we did not achieve the modernisation objectives that motivated the investment.”
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, however, blamed the development on lack of spare parts for the repairs of the scanners, saying that the Federal Government was already making arrangements to buy new scanners for the NSC.
A representative of Smith Detection, manufacturers of the scanners, Manoj Jagtiani, however, faulted the ministry, arguing that spare parts for the scanners were very much available and that the majority of the scanners could be repaired and made functional.