The immediate past National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA); Prince Olayiwola Shittu has drawn attention of stakeholders and government agencies to issues that have inhibited trade facilitation in the country over the years.
Speaking on Thursday during the celebration of his 70th birthday, the Septuagenarian noted that most of the challenges stifling trade facilitation and compounding the cargo clearing process in Nigeria stem from the absence of a National Single Window platform to streamline processes and enhance efficiency.
While stating that it is appalling that among Nigeria’s neighbours in the West and Central Africa region, Nigeria is one of the few countries that does not operate the platform.
He explained that when the single window was established at the Cotonou Port in Benin Republic, it reduced cargo delivery time from 40 days to less than 10days even as it also increased government revenue by more than 39%. He said the implementation of a National Single Window wills significantly improve cargo turnaround time at the Nigeria ports, and as well promote efficiency and transparency, and enhance Nigerian ports competitiveness in the West African region.
In addition, he said the continuous delay by the Nigeria Customs Service to procure and install scanners at the ports also has negative implications for the Presidential Ease of Doing Business initiative and efforts aimed at improving efficiency at port operations.
Speaking further, Shittu decried lack of 24 hours cargo clearance at the port which he said has made the Nigerian port one of the most time-in efficient ports in the world.
He said cargo dwell time in Nigeria has exceeds 20days in average for most ports in Africa, which has led to added burden on business when compared to other regions in the world, stating that businesses relying on timely shipments are less likely to develop in such an environment, and local importers need to integrate higher storage and inventory costs.
He stressed that global best practices ensure that any port that fails to achieve 24-hour operations would lose its international competitiveness informing that Nigerian ports have already lost a significant portion of the cargo destined for the region to other neighbours more efficient ports.
He said reform measures that will promote 24-hourport operations must be formulated and implemented by all government agencies involved in the cargo evacuation process.
For this to happen, he averred that cargo examination which is presently being conducted 100 percent manually due to non-functional scanners must be automated.
While urging that the terminal operators be allowed to procure and install scanners, he argued that this will bring about efficient management of the facilities
He urged government to engage the terminal operators and work out a contract for them to provide and maintain scanners and pass on the result into a secure server accessible to Customs and other agencies.
On port infrastructure and access road, the ANLCA chieftain lamented that all roads leading to Nigeria’s busiest ports around the country are in a sorry state.
He knocked the Presidential task team on decongestion of Apapa port roads for failing to achieve success in bringing lasting solution to the traffic gridlock along the port corridors.
He said the task team has not been very successful in achieving its mandate, he further explained that the access roads to Nigerian ports have been overwhelmed by population growth and stagnancy in upgrading port system, structures and infrastructures built over two decades ago.