As the contract of Webb Fontaine, the official technology partner for the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), ends in December 2022, Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON) has advised the federal government not to renew the company’s contract.
The group made this call in a letter titled, “Nigerian Ports Crisis: Why FG Shouldn’t Renew Webb Fontaine’s Contract”, signed by its National President, Otunba Frank Ogunojemite and addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives which was received at the legislative chamber on September 1st, 2022.
According to APFFLON, Nigerian importers, freight forwarders and the nation’s entire maritime sector would have a breathe of fresh air without Webb Fontaine, because the services of the company have been an economic sabotage to the nation.
Part of the letter read, “Webb Fontaine is the manager of Customs digital platforms, are responsible for the provision of IT & telecom infrastructure for Nigeria. This encompasses the delivery of Customs Management System nationwide via the Nigeria Customs Integrated System (NICIS II). However, the company’s 16-year management of Customs portal has been characterized by consistent server breakdowns which either connote gross inefficiency or a non-challance work culture by the organization.”
“Since 2006, when the company began its technical support service for Customs, Nigerian importers have suffered colossal fiscal losses from downtime at every port and terminal in the nation. This additional cost leads to higher prices for the imported goods (inflation), impoverishing Nigerians while the company suffers no losses.”
“Over the years, there have been no sensitization or stakeholders engagement by Webb Fontaine on its operations and difficulties, leaving aggrieved port users to blame Customs officials and the NCS management for all server disruptions.”
The group also noted that Webb Fontaine doesn’t have helpdesks or contact offices at ports and terminals, rather the company stations offices at choice locations in cities whereas its services are for ports and terminals.
“Amid the numerous challenges in Nigeria’s port system attributable to the company, findings have shown that the Dubai-based company operates a seamless and hitch-free process in Dubai but subjects Nigerians to gross inefficiencies.”
“Webb Fontaine was supposed to provide a single window solutions connecting all stakeholders involved in foreign trade allowing them perform from pre-clearance to post-clearance activities, but 16 years after the company has been unable to achieve this,” the letter read.
The freight forwarding association also queried the relevance of Webb Fontaine as the federal government-approved e-Customs project makes provision for full automation of Customs processes and services.
“If the e-Customs project needs some time to bed in, the contract awarded to Webb Fontaine should be unbundled and awarded to three or more companies for competition,” APFFLON stated.