Rev. Jonathan Nicole (Former President, SALS)
Well, I think it’s a difficult question to answer, because it has to do with government agencies and there must be uniformity. Well, I think they did a test run recently when my consignment was coming and they said I have to use a single window, so everything was downloaded, even the CBN had to do some approval. Yes, it is going on, but slowly too, and then we have the change of government, you know. So, whatever it is, the concept is there, and it will come on stream when we have the political will to make it work. And again, you know, it will be a new introduction into the system. This paperless system will gradually pick up, so it’s not going to be easy. Yes. We are used to the old system. It’s going to be a little bit difficult for the agencies to adapt. So, we are hoping that it will come on stream when all the agencies have logged in with the Customs website. My own company was part of the ones used to test run. Nigerian imports are huge, so they are looking at the space and time. The agencies will have to work within the limited time factor. So, it will take some time.
Chief John Aluya (immediate past Vice President, MAN)
I think you should ask Customs what they have done with the implementation of this single window. There have been several budgets from the Customs hierarchy to implement this single window. But why are they not implementing it? And what do they do with the money? I think you should put the question straight to the Customs to answer that question because we the OPS, cannot go and impose a single window on them. We cannot buy a scanning machine and give it to them. They will not take it. They will even take it as a suspect. So what have they done with all the provisions, the budgets, for single window implementation? The single window discussions has been on for two to three years and each year, if you go through the Customs budget every year, there are provisions for single window. Who takes this money? And why did they not want to do it? So I think you should direct your attention to the Customs.
Simeon Nwonu (Deputy National President, NAGAFF)
A lot of things are responsible. You know some of these government agencies government agencies like to play as lone rangers. Nothing is defined. Is the single window to be created by Customs and to be managed by Customs? But at the same time Customs seems not to like the idea. In theory they do, but in practice they seem not and that has been a very big problem because if the single window is operational, agencies like Standard Organization of Nigeria and NAFDAC will not be finding it difficult to access documents ahead of time. But the truth is that it is hindered by corruption. Ordinarily, in the era of this NICIS, freight forwarders are not expected to interface with Customs officers. But if you fail to interface, your job will not be done. So the issue of single window may not see the light of the day because many factors which are internal are inhibiting the operation of the Single Window. Otherwise single window would have become a thing of the past by now.
Dr. Muda Yusuf (Founder/CEO, CPPE)
I think what is happening is that, first there is inter-agency rivalry or inter-agency territorialism, Many of the agencies still prefer to operate in silos. There is still a bit of inter-agency rivalry, there is no adequate collaboration among the agencies in that respect, and there is no political will. We haven’t seen enough political will from the very top, because if the President directs today, that henceforth, everybody must come under single window, they don’t have a choice, all of them have to be there. So we need the political will to make it happen. Because some of the agencies seem to be enjoying the satisfaction, they want to continue to do things manually on their own, many of them are resisting this technology-driven system, because they believe that once they succumb to that, it will deprive them of some of the privileges that they enjoy currently. All those issues of self-interest are resistant to the reforms there. So we need the political will to enforce the reforms in the maritime sector, particularly with regards to this cargo clearing processes.
Taiwo Fatomilola (National PRO AREFFN)
Normally, the main problem is the network. You know, when you come under the single window, that is, fast-tracking most of all the documents you need. You can get it via the internet and you can send everything. But, as you know, it is not forthcoming. That is the major problem we are having. Even when you go to the bank to go and pay, if the time you want to access your vehicle and you want to apply for valuation, you may be there for three days. Even sometimes when you pay, the payment will not drop, you have to be going to the bank to bring this and that. Nigeria is not matured for networking. That is just the problem. The main motive of single window is for you to access information on the internet, for fast-tracking and easy access to information by everybody and all stakeholders, but it is not forth-coming.
Barr. Osuala Nwagbara (Maritime Lawyer)
The reason the various agencies have not been able to come under one umbrella to function as a single window for information collation, information transmission, and information exchange in the maritime industry is because each of the agencies appears to be operating in silos and is not good for the development of the maritime industry. One or two years back, we saw government agencies collaborating to find solutions to the various challenges that we have in the maritime industry. But that appears to have slipped over, and we don’t hear about that anymore. We need to have a single window to serve the purpose it is designed to serve, as far as data collation and information dissemination is concerned in the maritime industry. I think that Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Ports Authority and NIMASA are interested parties in the port industry. But you find that the only agency that is best suited in the circumstance if the single window must serve its purpose is the Nigerian Shipper’s Council, which also serves as the ports’ economic regulator. So it is best suited to do this because it will use information which it gathers very effectively in regulating the port sector from the economic point of view. So it is expected that government would make this happen. Now that we have the Ministry of Maritime and Blue Economy, that ministry should ensure the implementation of a single window project in the maritime industry.
Pius Ujubonu (ANLCA Chieftain)
Already the NICIS platform that Nigeria Custom Service has put out there as a test run being the lead agency in the ports airports and land borders is being abused. You must have heard or read about the spate of stoppages and interventions from the different agencies. Prominently and lately these activities are carried out by the Maritime Police and Standard Organization of Nigeria. Single window requires profundity from the trader, integrity from the regulators and security agencies. The big question is that do we think that the anthropogenic climate favours Single window platform clearance in the system? It is quite unfortunate.