Customs Douse Fears Over $3.2bn Concession Agreement With Chinese Firm
Fred Omotara, Lagos
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on Monday refuted claims in some quarters that it’s recent $3.2bn agreement with a Chinese led consortium, Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), and China’s Huawei Technologies Limited, will cede the entire operations of the Service to the Chinese led consortium.
Recall that the Nigeria Customs Service recently signed a concession agreement worth $3.2bn with Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), and China’s Huawei Technologies Limited to digitalise operations of the border security and revenue collection outfit of the Service, with the Federal Government expecting to generate over $176bn from the deal.
Shedding more light on the details of the concession agreement, National Spokesman of the NCS, DC Timi Bomodi explained that the concession agreement only covers the provision of modernization/ICT infrastructures for Customs.
According to the Customs Image Maker, “For the umpteenth time. The concession agreement only covers the provision of modernization/ICT infrastructures for Customs.
“This agreement DOES NOT cede the core functions of the Service to any entity.
“The Service has been working with Webb Fontaine as technical partners from the ASYCUDA era to NICIS. As technical partners, all they did was manage our ICT infrastructure whose operations was focussed on enhancing UI & UX on imports/exports.
“As efficient as NICIS II is, it still has limitations. Clearing agents complain about alerts and serial interventions on ongoing transactions because we have a less than efficient audit mechanism.
“With this new arrangement, examinations and release of import/exports will be subjected to live feeds across multiple platforms. This will check arbitrary decision making at all levels and will guide interventions.
“Many aspects of the Customs processes are still not automated. A classic example is escort operations for goods in transit. Today because of a shortfall in manpower, requests for escort takes quite a while before approval.
“This causes delays in the delivery of transit containers. With an automated e-tracking system the delays will be a thing of the past.
“Ditto for border management and control. Ditto for interface with other government agencies. We are moving into an era of high efficiency which can only be technology enabled.
“Excise operations have also been mostly analogue. This new agreement will see to the upscaling of all excise monitoring activities and bring them up to par with what happens on the import/export side.
“The infrastructure needed for this exercise is indeed massive. Connecting factories across the country and creating a single monitoring system checking daily production is a herculean task. Same for the added responsibility of monitoring taxes on newer more sophisticated platforms like telecom operations. Only companies like Huawei can provide the technological backbone for this ambitious project.
“Customs operations far exceeds port operations. They are complex and ever evolving especially today.”