By Gboyega Oni
Worried over recurrent illegal importations of arms and ammunition into the country via Tincan Island Port, Lagos, Group Executive Vice Chairman, SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi has called on the federal government to provide new scanners in all seaports quickly.
Afolabi made the call in a press release issued by Mr. Muyiwa Akande, Corporate Affairs Manager, SIFAX Group and a copy was made available to PortNewsNigeria.
Afolabi, who expressed displeasure at the slow pace of government in fixing the faulty scanners that has compelled men of the Nigeria Customs Service to resort to 100 percent physical examination of cargo, said this situation has the potential of compromising the national security of the country.
“Within eight months, the number of illegal arms that have been imported into the country through the port is staggering and distressing. I am convinced that the absence of needed facilities like the scanner at the ports is what has emboldened these unpatriotic criminals to keep importing these arms. There is little that the Customs can do to prevent this when they are not well equipped.
“I am worried that the Federal Government has not shown the kind of swift response and decisiveness that this illegal importation demands. The way to go is to urgently provide scanners at the port,” worriedly he said.
Speaking further, Afolabi also said lack of facilities will hinder the economic direction of the government as captured in the Ease of Doing Business executive order signed months ago by the then acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
The cargo clearing process under the present condition, according to Afolabi, would remain cumbersome and make the port unattractive and without any competitive edge.
To address the provision of the scanners, Afolabi urged the government to take advantage of private sector financing, in view of the current dwindling financial capability of government.
According to him, “I have been an advocate of concession of the port scanning services in the country. The country is just exiting recession and the government does not have the financial muscle to undertake this kind of huge capital investment. Just like the government concessioned the seaports in 2006, which has yielded great results and turned the maritime sector around, the concession of the port scanning services will also help in improving efficiency at the port and curb the dangers associated with 100% physical examination currently being embarked upon by men of the Nigeria Customs Service.
“I want to urge the government to expedite action in the concession of scanning services at the ports. The terminal operators are capable of investing in the scanning services to create more revenue for the country, curb the importation of arms and other dangerous cargoes into the country and also make the Ease of Doing Business Executive Order successful.”
It would be recalled that within eight months 2,671 firearms had been seized by the Nigerian Customs Service on four separate occasions at the Tin Can Island Port, Apapa in 2017 alone. Turkey has been identified as the country of origin of these illegal importations.