New Telegraph

Importers face delay, demurrage over server failure

Recurring failure of server being handled for Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) by its service provider, Messers WebFontaine, is causing huge demurrage for importers and their clearing agents at the seaports. It was revealed that the service provider had been battling with the service in the last three weeks without success. Worried by the incessant failure, the National Vice President of ANLCA, Prince Segun Oduntan, called on President Tinubu to intervene in the plight of port users by instructing the Minister of Finance, Wale Edun, to tackle the challenges. According to him, “WebFontaine contract has been terminated from managing Customs server but they don’t want to withdraw totally. This has been causing a lot of delays, demurrages and intrigues among the trading public, coupled with the increase in the dollar exchange rate.

“The server failure issue is between the Ministry of Finance and WebFontaine and this is affecting the Nigeria Customs Service. “The Customs portal has not been working; it has been dragging for the past three weeks. For three days, you might not be able to carry out cargo assessment in some commands. The importers and agents are the ones suffering all the demurrages. “The server is not down, it is working, but it is very slow, and it sometimes comes and goes.” Oduntan advised the Federal Government to set up a committee to look into what is causing the delays and epileptic Customs portal, noting that the government should bring in IT experts and resource persons to look into the issue as a matter of urgency. Also, the national vice president urged government to cushion the effect on the masses. Oduntan said: “There is need for us as an association to have a proper engagement with the CBN, this is not a Customs thing, even if Customs has to be there, they would be an observer, they only carryout Customs policies, they only wake up to find it on their system.” It would be recalled that before the latest problem, importers had complained that they had incurred huge financial losses and demurrage at the SAPID 1 Bonded Terminal, Abule Osun, Lagos, following the long breakdown of the NCS’s server. It was gathered that the problem started when the importers and Customs agents could not take delivery of their consignments in the terminal due to collapse of server. The Coordinator of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) 100 per cent Compliance Team at SAPID 1 Bonded Terminal, Mr. Igbokwe Nzube Donatus, said that Customs had not taken any action to address the problem, adding that it had made freight forwarders and importers to incur huge debts. Igbokwe noted: “Freight forwarders have been lamenting and complaining about the inability to clear goods from SAPID 1 Bonded Terminal since Wednesday last week and the problem persisted until Friday. Who is going to pay for the demurrage costs at such a time when everyone is feeling the pangs of inflation with the fuel subsidy removal? “When I got the report initially, I discussed with the bonded terminal manager, who clarified that the problem was from the Customs server and I also engaged the Deputy Controller of Customs at the bonded terminal, who said that Webb Fontaine, Customs IT consultant has assured that the problem would be resolved.

“Customs formerly told us that the mast at the bonded terminal is faulty but Webb Fontaine told us that there is nothing wrong with the mast at the bonded terminal. According to Webb Fontaine, the issue is linked to another connection at KLT. We really cannot tell who is telling the truth, but we can’t continue to suffer financial losses on account of a challenge caused by Customs and its IT provider, Webb Fontaine.” Igbokwe urged Customs to ensure a lasting solution was found to address the persistent server breakdown, noting that the additional cost of delays would lead to demurrage charges which will reflect in the final prices of goods thereby causing inflation.

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