President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents in Nigeria and member of the reconstituted task force on the reforms of Nigeria Customs service, Mr. Lucky Amiwero has cautioned Government and the country at large to hasten slowly with the award of the contract for the implementation of the National single window to West Blue Consulting.

According to him, West Blue has failed terribly in Nigeria and cannot brag of having the capacity and expertise to implement the policy, stressing that the company collapsed all the ports in Nigeria for five months before Destination Inspection Company Webb Fontaine took over and normalised the situation.

Reacting to suggestions by the Registrar of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria, Mr. Mike Jukwe and the president of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders in Nigeria, Mr. Eugene Nweke, to the fact that Ghanaians should embrace the new concept for the good of the country, Mr. Amiwero noted that the two freight forwarders lacked the locus and qualification to speak to the particular subject.

Mr. Mike Jukwe together with Mr. Eugene Nweke were in the country at the instance of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority who had organised a forum for stakeholders on Intra-African Trade-The role of the national single window and sought to suggest that Ghana was better off with the single window concept to be implemented by West Blue Consulting.

But Mr. Amiwero in an interview with the Maritime and Transport Digest said the stance of the two men was far from the reality on the ground and that it is imperative for the country to do thorough due diligence on the background and record of West Blue before going ahead to offer the company any contract; adding that the two freight forwarders were appendages and stooges of selfish people who wanted to reverse the clock of progress for Ghana in the international trade arena.

Mr. Amiwero pointed out that he had been to Ghana on several occasions and that it was no secret that Ghana was far ahead and advanced than Nigeria in terms of processes and procedures as well as valuation and classification under the Destination Inspection Scheme, noting that government should not listen to the propaganda by selfish individuals who are only interested in lining their pockets at the detriment of the general good of the country.

According to the ardent advocate for port reforms in Nigeria who has sat on countless government committees in Nigeria to reform the Maritime Industry during the time West Blue was contracted to take charge of the job, a lot of people died, some lost their cargo and that it was at this point that Webb Fontaine was called in to intervene.

He explained that even currently, the job of destination inspection which was also taken over by customs in Nigeria had collapsed, and that all the scanners have broken down, pointing out that Webb Fontaine had to be brought back as the main lifeline on valuation and classification in Nigeria.

‘’West Blue cannot claim to have any expertise to do any job because from January through to May 2014, all the ports in Nigeria collapsed under their watch because of gross incompetence. They are fraudsters and will bring international trade to a halt in Ghana if they are not checked. Their performance in Nigeria is public record and public knowledge and you can go and check for yourself. You can also search the internet and it is there’’ he told the Maritime and Transport Digest in a telephone interview from his base in Nigeria.

According to him, the authorities in the country’s ports now do more physical examination as a result of the fact that almost all the scanners have broken down and this is bad omen for international trade as according to him, things have slowed drastically creating a lot of delays and congestion in most cases.

‘’I was a member of the presidential Committee on Destination Inspection because I wrote for it. I wrote to introduce Destination Inspection in the country and have sat in numerous presidential committees, so I am not telling you because of any other thing, but I am just telling you that Ghana must be very careful and it must be important for you to come to this country and confirm every single issue I have raised and statement I have made. Because, for 5 good months, the ports in Nigeria were in a very serious problem because files could not be generated and as I speak to you now, the whole system of Destination Inspection has collapsed in Nigeria. Nothing is working, the scanners are gone so the risk assessment process that forms the key component of trade facilitation has collapsed and the government is aware of it. So nobody should say this West Blue thing is good for Ghana. It is not’’ he argued.

According to Mr. Amiwero, it was crucial for Ghana which has practised the Destination Inspection for 15 years to put in place a proper transition or exit plan for the Destination Inspection Companies in other not to put international trade in any form of danger, adding that Nigeria might even decide to learn from Ghana how her exit plan was fashioned.

Mr. Amiwero has served on more than 100 government and presidential committees on port reforms and customs operations some of which include Member of presidential committee on Destination Inspection, Member of the reconstituted task force on the reforms of Nigeria Customs Service, Member of Import clearance procedures and implementation of fiscal measures 2013, Member of the National Facilitation Committee of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Member of the presidential committee on 48 hour clearance of goods from the ports, Member of the task force on the review of port charges and Member of the presidential committee on port problems 2013.

Meanwhile, the Spokesperson to the Joint Consultative Committee of Destination Inspection Scheme (JCCDIS) encapsulating all the 5 Destination Inspection Companies operating in the country, Mrs. Amma Addo has described as palpable falsehood, assertions by some top Customs officials that about 75% of the staff at the various Destination Inspection Companies were mostly customs officers.

According to her, serving Customs officers who are on secondment to the 5 Destination Inspection Companies were Eleven (11) while the number of resigned customs officers who joined the Destination Inspection Companies were also Eleven (11) out of a total staff strength of 541.

Mrs. Addo gave the breakdown as follows, permanent employees, 406, Casual Workers, 15 and workers for subcontractors, 120, bringing the grand total to 541, adding that it therefore smacked of mischief for members of the Customs top hierarchy to infer that 75% of the staff of the Destination Inspection Companies were customs officials.

Nigeria Finance Minister acknowledges West Blue Failure A letter intercepted by the Maritime and Transport Digest dated 22nd April 2014 under the hand of the then Minister for Finance in Nigeria, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and addressed to the Controller –General of the Nigeria Customs Service stated in that she (The Minister) was relieved to hear that the enhanced Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) platform designed by Webb Fontaine was efficiently working and was facilitating effective collection of government revenue by the Nigeria Customs Service.

The Minister further requested details about an earlier failed system that was deployed by Techno Brain West Blue Consulting including details of the cost involved in deploying the system. She also per the letter acknowledged that there were severe challenges that the ports experienced with the system deployed by West Blue. We publish below, the letter written by the then Nigerian Finance Minister unedited.

Source: Maritime & Transport Digest

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