January 29, 2023

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Senate investigates Webb Fontaine’s $250m payments over persistent Customs’ server breakdown  

Senate investigates Webb Fontaine's $250m payments over persistent Customs’ server breakdown  

…Freight forwarders lament losses, demand compensation

The Senate Committee on Customs has resolved to investigate Webb Fontaine, IT Service providers for Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) $250 million earnings from the government over its persistent server breakdowns.

This comes as freight agents have called on the federal government to demand compensation from the Customs IT service provider over poor services leading to loss of revenue for importers, freight forwarders and the government via Customs.

This is coming on the heels of the National Assembly directing the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stop the payment of outstanding fund for Webb Fontaine until after investigations of its activities from 2006 to 2022 is completed.

Speaking with newsmen, the National President of Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON), Otunba Frank Ogunojemite called for a compensation from the I.T company over poor services for decades.

While commending the Senate Committee for the ongoing investigations on the services of Webb Fontaine since its contract commenced in 2006, he lamented that the importers and freight forwarders have lost colossal sums from server breakdowns which have characterized Webb Fontaine’s service over the years.

His words: “We can’t quantify the monetary loss that Webb Fontaine epileptic services has cost freight agents and importers because of the server downtime which leads to more charges as storage at the terminals. Customs and the federal government also losses revenue because the downtime means payments can’t be made for hours and most times for days. I would say that this is a deliberate action by Webb Fontaine to sabotage Nigeria’s economy because the company runs the same system effectively in other nations.”

“The widespread reports of network failure, also known as downtime, which sometimes lasts for more than 4 days had been a regular occurrence, leaving freight forwarders with humongous backlog of demurrage, thereby trapping thousands of containers in the process. In times like these freight forwarders are rendered helpless and even banks are unable to transmit information about duties collected on behalf of the Federal Government”

Ogunojemite added that Nigerians have been lamenting about their losses as Webb Fontaine bears no responsibility, no apologies, and no explanations despite being the cause of the poor and epileptic services.

Worried that the management/operations of the company in delivering the services is still shrouded in secrecy and is not visible to the Nigeria Customs Service; the Senate Committee on Customs resolved to urge the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria to put a stop to the payment of outstanding fund for Webb Fontaine until after investigations of its activities from 2006 to 2022 is completed.

The Senate Committee also mandated the Committee on Customs and Excise to invite the Minister of Finance, the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, and the Chairman/Managing Director of the Webb Fontaine Limited, to shed more light on the Service Level Agreement with the company, and report within four weeks.