The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) said it will begin full automation of Customs processes by 2023, as part of efforts to reposition the operations of the service via the e-customs modernisation project.
Even though the controversial e-customs project is still at the contract signing stage after the Federal Government endorsed a concession agreement to reposition the operations of the service. The delay which has been for over a year now is raising speculations that the projects might have hit the rock.
The e-Customs project had earlier generated controversy among stakeholders in the industry who believed that the existing Customs automation platforms could be upgraded to fit the purpose, rather than wasting a whopping $3.1b on a new project.
Recall that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had on September 2, 2020, signed on to a 20-year Nigeria Customs Automation Scheme. The project involves using technology to drive all processes and procedures in the NCS expected to lead to increments in productivity, returns and process management the E-Customs project has a value of $3.1 billion.
But, in a chat with our correspondent last week, the National Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Customs Service, Deputy Comptroller Timi Bomodi stated that full automation of customs processes under the e-customs modernization project will begin by 2023.
He said the service is engaging its technical partners and once an agreement is ratified, the service will introduce innovations that will lead to full automation of customs procedures.
He added that the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) valuation that was recently introduced is a forerunner of the e-customs project, stating that so much is being carried out in the background, under the e-customs project.
“The VIN is an arm of e- customs, there are many segments of e-customs, we are talking about the full automation of customs, we just did an aspect of it, that has to do with the treatment of used vehicles, so the service is moving, a lot of what we are doing are being done in the background when we will come to the point where we need to introduce a particular process or procedure to the public, we will do; we are engaging our technical partners and once we finish, we will ratify agreement; then, of course, we can begin to introduce innovations that have to do with the full automation of the customs processes and we should begin some of it by next year,” he said.
Meanwhile, freight forwarders operating in the nation’s maritime industry have lamented the lack of engagement by the NCS over the e-customs project. The stakeholders who spoke to our correspondent at different times urged the NCS to carry them along before bringing or enforcing any project.
The acting president of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Dr, Kayode Farinto, said that even though the e-customs cannot be described as a white elephant project, he urged the service to constantly engage stakeholders and brief them before introducing any policy.
Also in a chat with our correspondent, the chairman 100% compliance team of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF); Alhaji Tanko Ibrahim urged the NCS to further engage freight forwarders over decisions that can affect them.
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