DDC machines stolen at Lagos airport
By Oyetunji Abioye
Thursday, 9 Dec 2010
The porous nature of the nation’s airports has again been laid bare as some of the Direct Data Capture machines for the registration of voters for the 2011 elections were allegedly stolen at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.
Sources at the airport, who made this known to our correspondent on Wednesday, did not give the number of units that was stolen. But they said the incident took place on Monday night at the Cargo Terminal of MMIA.
They also claimed that the machines were awaiting clearance by Independent National Electoral Commission agent when the theft took place.
The Spokesman for the Airport Command of the Nigerian Police Force, Mr. Benedict Ifeanyi, confirmed the incident.
He said the police and other security agencies had commenced an investigation into the matter.
The Nigerian Aviation Handling Company, the ground handling firm which offloaded the cargo, was yet to make official report on the incident as at 10pm on Wednesday.
He said, “As at now, I can’t tell you the quantity that was stolen, neither will I be able to tell you who was and who was not on duty and not on duty when the incident happened.
“We can’t tell now whose fault it is whether it was the Nigeria Customs Service or the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria or the airline or the ground handling firm. All that will be determined when NAHCO makes an official report.”
Our correspondent gathered that the Nigerian Customs Service Area Comptroller, Military Airport Commandant and the Director of the State Security Service were at the Cargo Terminal on Wednesday to examine the remaining machines at the ramp.
An indigenous Information Technology company, Zinox Technologies Limited, had brought in 14,000 units of the DDC machines from China and Dubai, on Sunday.
The quantity is part of the 80,000 units of the electronic equipment the company was given contract to supply by INEC.
Two other companies— Haier Electrical Appliances Corporation of China and Avante of United States— also won contracts to supply 30,000 and 22,000 units respectively .
Efforts by our correspondent to get the clearing agent, identified as Services Solutions Limited, to comment on the alleged theft of the machines were not successful.
An official at the Cargo Terminal of the MMIA, who pleaded anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, also confirmed that some of the DDC machines had been stolen.
He said, “Three shipments have arrived so far. The first one arrived earlier. The second one arrived on Sunday evening while the third one came in at about 5:10am on Monday morning.
“We arrived office on Tuesday morning and discovered that some parts of the last two shipments had been removed.”
It was gathered that the equipment were offloaded by NAHCO Plc and that Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited was to warehouse them pending their clearance.
The NAHCO spokesperson , Ms Bekky IJyuse, who also confirmed the incident , said that although the company (NAHCO) offloaded the DDC machines, the agent decided to give it to SAHCOL to warehouse.
She said it was the responsibility of SAHCOL to liaise with the NCS on what happened to the cargo after they were cleared.
SAHCOL’s spokesman, Mr. Basil Agboarumi, however, said that the company (SAHCOL) did not take possession of the two shipments that were tampered with.
According to him, the first set of DDC machines that came in were still safe in the warehouse of the company.
He added, “Whatever happened, happened at the ramp.The first shipment that came in was brought into our warehouse, and nothing happened to it.
“But the other two shipments which were said to have been poached from the ramp ‘happened’ at the ramp, which is not our jurisdiction. That is the jurisdiction of FAAN. We don’t know anything about that.”
It was gathered that Customs officials at the airport said that their Area Comptroller had to give clearance before sensitive goods like the DDC machines could be cleared.
The NCS spokesman at the MMIA, Mr. Saturday Odum, said that the Customs was always interested in any goods coming into the country.
“The goods in questions are at the tarmac, and if anything had happened to them, they happened at the ramp,” he said.
Airline and ground handling officials at the terminal, however, said the problem was caused by the porous nature of security at the airport in general.
One of them said, “There is no control at the ramp there. Anything can happen. It is like the case of a market square. People steal things here any how. It is because this one has to do with election materials that it raising dust.”
When our correspondent contacted the General Manager, Public Affairs, FAAN, Mr, Akin Olukunle, over the theft, he said he would get back. As at the time 10.30pm he was yet to do so.