By Steve Agbota
Controversy has continued to trial the new launch of a cargo tracking system designed for the use of the Nigeria Customs Service by a service provider known as Webb Fontaine.
Stakeholders in the maritime industry have questioned the rationale behind launch of the system by Customs when the Federal Government has earlier ceded the responsibility to the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC).
However, the Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON also accused the Webb Fontaine of hijacking NSC’s function and seeks clarification on the launch of the cargo tracking system by Customs.
Recall that some years back, the Federal Government gave the responsibility of running cargo tracking note to NSC, which was initially handled by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
But recently, it was reported that Webb Fontaine had designed the cargo tracking system for customs and trade automation with a pilot scheme in Apapa port to aid online, real-time and live monitoring containers within controlled areas in the customs zone at the port and outside of the port.
Speaking with Daily Sun on the development, the President of APFFLON, Otunba Frank Ogunojemite said he was stunned to read the development in news when it was the Nigerian Shippers’ Council that has the responsibility to handle the cargo tracking note.
To verify the report, he noted that the piece of news should be clarified in order not to misinform the stakeholders in the maritime industry.
“I’m wondering if the Webb Fontaine was doing this in collaboration with the Nigerian Shippers’ Council. Recalled that APFFLON had a pending petition against Webb Fontaine at the National Assembly over its poor performance in the subsisting contract with the Nigeria Customs Service and I’m wondered if this new development could be a new contract to the company by the Service.
“Is there any other contract between Webb Fontaine and the Nigeria Customs Service? I am seeking to know if Webb Fontaine has taken over the Nigerian Shippers’ Council responsibility and why should Webb Fontaine take over despite their records of inefficiency in its previous contract with the Service. It needs to be sanctioned rather than given another contract to handle,” he lamented.
He said APFFLON needs clarification from the Federal Government why it should allow Webb Fontaine to handle another sensitive system like cargo tracking system despite its inefficiency in handling Customs server, which is always down and incur additional costs to clearing agents and importers.
“There was a petition we sent to the National Assembly and we had a meeting about two months ago where APFFLON was invited alongside the management of Webb Fontaine by the leadership of the National Assembly. We were supposed to continue the sitting in the National Assembly over our petition.
“So, I am now wondering, what has happened that Webb Fontaine now handles Cargo Tracking System. Besides that, does that mean that there’s no modernisation of the Nigeria Customs Service again? And if there is, are they part of the Customs modernization team that we heard about? We are confused, we need clarification on this.
“We need clarification and if it is additional task for Webb Fontaine when it has not handled the one it is handling efficiently, then, it does not worth it . Let there be stakeholders’ engagement. If Webb Fontaine should go on with this, what is the purpose of modernisation of Customs? Where are we? The issue is confusing and I need you people to clarify this. It is an issue I think we should critically work on,” he said.