Operations of importers and clearing agents at the Tin-Can Island `Port, in Lagos, are being frustrated following the collapse of the Nigeria Customs Integration System (NICIS2) server in the past fortnight.
The server failure, which has crippled business activities at the Port, has led to high demurrage and storage charges for importers, as documentation for Customs clearance by clearing agents have become tedious. The Tin-Can Island Port is the second busiest seaport in Nigeria after Apapa. The port has five terminal operators with different concession agreements. Under the NICIS 2 platform, importers and clearing agents are expected to process their clearance documents from the comfort of their homes and offices, to reduce overcrowding into the ports and various Customs commands.
A clearing agent at Tin Can Island Port, Adebowale Dare, accused the Customs of deliberately sabotaging the system, because the online platform had reduced physical contact at the commands.
According to him, the server failure for the past two weeks has ensured that clearing agents visit the Customs Processing Centre (CPC), popularly called, “Long-room” to generate their clearance documents.
He said: “We can take a whole day to capture a job and the Customs website would be failing; you won’t be able to generate assessment, and even if you succeeded in generating assessment and capturing your job, you won’t be able to generate the ‘C’ number.
“If you are unable to generate the ‘C’ number, you cannot print out the assessment, and you would now be forced to go to the Customs long room before they can generate it for you.
“Under normal circumstances, they told us that we can generate an assessment and capture jobs right from our offices, but now, we are unable to generate ‘C’ number, but I believe Customs deliberately caused this problem.
“It has been happening for the past two weeks. If you cannot generate ‘C’ number, the demurrage would be accumulating,” he said Also speaking, Chukwudi Daniel, said he has been unable to clear his cargoes for the past one week, even after making several captures, as the system refused to authenticate the action thereby making his client incur huge demurrage charges from shipping company and storage charges from terminal operator.
He said: “The Customs server has been down for up to a week now, and nothing has been done about it. Customs is not showing enough concern, and my clients are accruing high demurrage and storage charges on daily basis. They must do something,” he said.
However, the Customs Tin Can Island Command has debunked the allegation of deliberately frustrating the NICIS2 platform.
Public Relations Officer of the Command, Uche Ejesieme, confirmed the server failure even as he said that the Customs server was being managed by Webfontaine in partnership with Interswitch – technical partners to the NCS. Ejesieme noted that the Command is also losing revenue to the server failure, and therefore more worried about the development than the operators. Ejesieme said: “On the issue of server failure, kindly note that the technical hitches are usually being handled by Webfontaine in partnership with Interswitch.
They were contracted by government to provide technical assistance for our NICIS2 operations. “We have a good working relationship with the technical providers to the extent that once we receive reports from stakeholders about difficulties in their e-transaction; we immediately get in touch with the technical team for resolution. “Don’t also forget that each time there is server failure, it also affects our revenue, and so we are even more worried than the stakeholders. While we regret the inconvenience which the situation may have caused all of us, I would like to assure everyone that the situation is being handled by the technical team.”