By Steve Agbota            

The Federal Government is set to phase out  physical inspection of cargoes in order to decongest and facilitate trade at the nation’s ports. This was part of the agreements between the Ministers of Marine and Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola, his counterpart in the Ministry of Transportation, Senator Said Ahmed Alkali and the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Bashir Adewale Adeniyi after a meeting held in Abuja.

The reason to phase out the physical examination of cargoes is to ensure efficiency and competitiveness, while tackling corruption and other hurdles stacked against trade facilitation.

At the end of the  meeting, they agreed that the use of modern technologies like scanners is important to addressing the issue of port congestion.

The resolutions were contained in a statement jointly signed by the spokesperson to the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Ismail Omipidan and the National Public Relations Officer of Customs, Abdullahi Maiwada.

Adeniyi has been charged to enforce the use of scanners at the ports while private investors were urged  to invest in the deployment and maintenance of scanners at the nation’s ports.

The meeting took the decision because the most harrowing part of the experience at the port is the cargo clearing process. For the examining officer, physical cargo inspection can be life threatening.

According to the statement, the meeting, was held at the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy and had the Managing Director of Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Fidet Okhiria attending virtually. The meeting also resolved to ensure a new construction that will bypass the fixed scanner at Apapa port, so as to ensure the unhindered progression of scanning process during crucial infrastructure development.

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“In a significant milestone for Nigeria’s maritime landscape, a pivotal strategic meeting was held at the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy on Monday, January 15, 2024.

“The primary thrust of this collaborative venture was to deliberate and actualise initiatives that would not only open up ports but also foster seamless cooperation and trade and facilitation.

“A key focal point of discussion was the strategic integration of the Non-Intrusive Inspection Technology (NIIT) to bolster operational efficiency in Nigerian Seaports.

“Acknowledging the pivotal role of NIIT in actively decongesting ports, the meeting entrusted the Comptroller General of Customs with the mandate to champion and prioritize cargo scanning over traditional physical examination methods,” the statement read.

The statement said: “Was endorsed to rectify and optimize all existing scanners at prominent ports such as Apapa, Tincan Island, Onne, and PTML. Simultaneously, the existing mobile scanners will be strategically deployed to facilitate expeditious cargo inspections.

“The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) pledged continued commitment to freight cargoes to Inland container depots/dry ports, a strategic move to alleviate congestion at major ports. Plans were unveiled for the efficient evacuation of containers from Port Harcourt to Aba, with future extensions envisaged for Onne Port.

“Against the backdrop of rail track construction, the NRC concurred on a pragmatic approach by agreeing to bypass the fixed scanner at Apapa. This ensures the unhindered progression of scanning process during crucial infrastructure development.

“The meeting advocated for exploring Public-Private Partnerships to oversee the installation and maintenance of scanning technology. This collaborative model aims to sustain efficiency and foster innovation in cargo inspection processes,” the statement reads in part.