By Funso Olojo
A maritime expert, Lucky Amiwero, has decried the destination inspection regime of cargo inspection as the cause of the proliferation of arms imports into the country.
It would be recalled that the Nigeria Customs Service made a huge arm seizure at the Tin Can Island port last week Monday with the discovery of a container fully loaded with 1100 pump action rifles.
The seizure was the third of such discoveries made by the Service this year. In January this year, 49 boxes containing 661 AK 47 were intercepted at the Apapa port while in May, another seizure of 440 pieces of pump action rifles were discovered at Tin Can port.
The last Monday seizure which was the biggest haul so far making it a total of 2201 sophisticated arms intercepted by the Customs in nine months, raising serious security concerns among Nigerians.
However, Amewero, a member of reconstituted presidential task force on the reform of Nigeria Customs Service (RPTFCR) and the National President of National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) noted that the destination inspection regime which allows importers to bring in their goods into the country before Customs inspection is the cause of this unhindered importation of arms and other unwholesome cargoes into the country.
In a letter to President Mohammed Buhari, Amiwero noted that majority of nations have discarded this type of inspection regime due to its high security risk and embraced an alternative form of inspection called manufacturing site of Port of loading as contained in the World Customs Organisation(WCO) safe framework convention which he said Nigeria was a signatory to.
‘’There is serious concern about our import and export system and the economy that is vulnerable to terrorist exploitation due to our cargo inspection regime(Destination Inspection)(DI),which practice contravenes the WCO WORK Safe Frame Work of Standard to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade (WCO SAFE FRAME).
The Destination Inspection regime (DIR) process, allows the influx of unwholesome goods in to the country, such as Arms, Ammunitions, Contraband and the reduction of revenue, which exposes the nation to serious security threats.
‘’Before the event of 9/11 Customs authority were responsible for the clearance of imported goods at the Port of destination. The event of 9/11 precipitated a change in Cargo inspection from destination to now at manufacturing site of Port of Loading, due to monitoring of supply chain mechanism of unwholesome products and revenue manipulation at Destination.
‘’ Nigeria is a signatory to the convention of the WCO Safe Framework of Standard to secure and Facilitate Global Trade, which provides multilayered set of standards for container/cargo security, developed to enhance security, increase revenue and facilitate international trade through two pillars:
‘’The Customs-to- Customs (C2C) – Pillar provides for cooperation between Customs authority in order to inspect cargo before it arrives at the destination ports on outbound and inbound of non instructive inspection(NII)
‘’The Custom-to- Business (C2B) – Pillar aims to create an international system for identifying private business that offers a high degree of security/integrity.
‘’The objective is that there must be an ability to inspect and screen a container of cargo before it arrives our Ports as contained in paragraph a, b and C of WCO Safe Framework’’, he stated.
According to the convention, the Customs administration should have the authority to inspect cargo originating, exiting, transiting (including remaining on board) or being transshipped through a country.
The Customs administration should also provide required advance electronic information on cargo and containers shipments in time for adequate risk
The Customs Administration should conduct outbound security inspection of high-risk containers and cargo at the reasonable request of the importing country.
Amiwero lamented that while many African and European countries have embraced this safe mode of inspection, Nigeria is still stuck with the long discarded destination Inspection regime with its attendant security risks.
‘’Nigeria practice Destination Inspection(DI) of import which allows goods to be imported into the country without inspection, which contravenes various provision of Customs-to- Customs Standards on WCO SAFE Framework of Standard to Secure and Facilitate global trade.
‘’Destination Inspection(DI) process of import on cargo allows the illicit cross-border movement of weapons of Mass Destruction(WMD), Drugs, Arms, Ammunitions, counterfeit merchandised hazardous waste and human trafficking as presently practiced in Nigeria, which allows goods into Nigeria without pre-screening to identify high risk goods before shipment.
‘’The process of no inspection/ prescreening of goods coming into Nigeria poses greater security risk by the influx of Arms, Ammunition, Contrabands, Narcotics, explosives (e.g., dirty bombs, and weapon of mass destruction (WMD) and unwholesome items in to the Country in contravention of standard 2, 3 and 11 of the WCO SAFE framework of Standard.
The maritime expert further noted that the practice of scanning these goods which would have minimized the risk of these unwholesome imports escape into the Nigeria society has long been abandoned by the Customs due to the malfunctioning of the scanning machines inherited from the former service providers.
Amiwero therefore stated that if the Nigerian government is desirous of halting the alarming rate of arms imports into the country, the following measures must be urgently be adopted.
‘’There is the urgent need for Nigeria as a contracting party to the global Multi-layered Security protocol the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards, to comply with the protocol by reducing the illicit –Cross boarder movement of unwholesome goods into the country
‘’There is the urgent need to initiate the process of memorandum of understanding (MOU) with various countries, where cargo throughput of import is high e.g China, Turkey, India, etc. for the agreement of Mutual Administrative Assistant for collaborative activities on the prevention, investigation, repression and transnational crime as contained in various conventions
‘’There is the urgent need to repair the collapsed scanners in the ports that is the core on Security tool to reduce the influx of illicit Goods in the Country.
‘’There is the urgent need to safeguard and secure our nation from the influx of Arms, Ammunition, Narcotics, dirty Bomb, unwholesome items and Weapon of mass destruction (WMD) through the implementation of the provision of international Cargo Security Agreement.
‘’There is the need to accommodate various pre-shipment Inspection process under Customs control as conducted by other government agencies such as Customs, NAFDAC, SON etc , that are involved in Quality , Quantity and Value assessment of imported goods as practiced globally to safeguard the National Security and reduce the process and cost of multiple charges.
‘’ Urgently constitute a committee of trade procedure experts to address the short fall in the import process , which constitutes bottle necks and imped the component of trading across border on ease of doing business’’, the renowned freight forwarder noted.