The system failure witnessed by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) at the port has caused the industry to lose N84 billion within the past two weeks. The failure, which hindered the link between importers and Customs’ server for clearance of goods, led to an estimated loss of N6 billion daily for the past 14 days.
The system failure occurred due to an upgrade being carried out on it. Uploading the SON’s Conformity Assessment Programme code into the system to get the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report has been unsuccessful for importers.
What’s the problem? It was disclosed that the applications used by government organisations were not developed for Nigeria and the processes were also not domesticated. This boils down to why the new system was problematic for importers, who were used to the former system.
This was disclosed by an Information and Communication Technology expert, Tunji Olaosun, who advised that SON needed to contact the developer of the application in order to resolve the problem because, without the involvement of the developer, all proffered solution would not solve the problem.
“If it is sending error message back, it means there is a problem in the connection between the developer and SON. If the person is not in Nigeria, they either reach them or build the system from scratch,” he told Punch in a report.
Short-term solution to the problem: According to Olaosun, the immediate solution to such system failure is to switch back to manual. He said this would enable SON to clear the importers to get their Pre-Arrival Assessment Report
“There is always a sail safe mode so that in an unlikely situation that the electronic system breaks down, you could switch to the alternative.”
Meanwhile, the Vice-President of Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, Kayode Farinto, agreed to the manual process. He said that clearing agents should be allowed to clear regulated cargo while Customs can send their officials later to the consignees’ warehouses for further checks.
SON threatened with a lawsuit: SON is being threatened by the clearing agents. Farinto said the body would have no choice but to take the matter to court if the system failure continues after 24 hours. Farinto made the threat after suggesting that the Customs should assist with solutions to the system failure.
He opined that the system failure could have been caused because SON engaged a system analyst that isn’t familiar with its software or didn’t carry along the Customs during the upgrade. Farinto said the failure in SON’s system had constituted an impediment to cargo clearing because the organisation’s regulated cargo was about 35%.
Farinto disclosed that clearing agents had been paying huge demurrage for a problem they didn’t cause. Demurrage is a fee charged by the owner of a chartered ship for failure to load or discharge the ship within the time agreed.
He stated that “Nigerian port is losing N6 billion daily as a result of the system collapse in SON, if this is not addressed in 24 hours, there would be chaos in cargo clearance.”
Meanwhile, another stakeholder, Ayokunle Sulaiman, disclosed that due to the situation, N20,000 was paid daily by clearing agents as demurrage.
But Farinto said that clearing agents can’t afford to pay demurrage anymore, so the government needs to declare force majeure to prevent the loss of billions of naira. Companies often declare force majeure when an unforeseeable circumstance prevents them from fulfilling a contract.