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Another year passes without single window platform at seaports

By Adaku Onyenucheya
27 October 2021   |   4:09 am
Nigeria would once again end another year with the unfulfilled promise of the National Single Window (NSW) project deployment at the nation’s seaports, which has cost the country N1.08 trillion losses yearly.

Chaos along Apapa ports despite Federal Government’s decongestion claim early this month…<br />PHOTO: ADAKU ONYENUCHEYA<br />

Nigeria would once again end another year with the unfulfilled promise of the National Single Window (NSW) project deployment at the nation’s seaports, which has cost the country N1.08 trillion losses yearly.

Last year, the Federal Government disclosed that the National Single Window project and scanners would be deployed and begin operations at the seaports before the end of 2020 to improve cargo turnaround time and promote efficiency and transparency, thus removing corruption practices that fuel the entry of substandard goods into the country.

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo made the disclosure, at an investigative hearing on the incessant influx of fake, substandard and counterfeit products.

Recall that Nigeria introduced the single window concept in 2006 to enable swift and efficient movement of goods at the ports. The country’s NSW project has not been implemented despite a committee set up to ensure that.

Already, Ghana, Togo and Senegal have implemented their platforms, which have made their ports more competitive.

Nigeria’s ports are still locked in a congestion crisis caused by the various manual processes and 100 per cent physical examinations involved in the cargo clearance chain as well as the high cargo dwell time and corruption due to human contacts, thereby costing the federal government N1.08 trillion yearly loss in revenue.

However, there is a glimmer of hope as scanners have been deployed to some of the country’s seaports but are yet to commence their function in the area of cargo examination and inspection processes.

The Chairman, Nigerian Ports Consultative Council (NPCC), Kunle Folarin called for the institution of the NSW at the nation’s seaports, saying it would give Nigeria a competitive edge ahead of other maritime nations.

Folarin, who made the call during the NPPC visit to the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) in Lagos, also reiterated the need for intermodal transport in Nigeria’s maritime domain.

He further noted that an effective rail system and barge operations would address the speedy evacuation of cargoes and reduce dependence on roads.

President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, is not too convinced on the achievement of the national single window in Nigeria, especially as the different government agencies at the ports operate various processes.

He said the various government agencies have deliberately refused to harmonise their processes, but continue to operate multiple windows.

“Nigeria lacks what it takes to get the National Single Window. A single window is a single administration, process and transaction, which we lack. As of now, we are having multiple windows in administration, delivery and transaction. Even though there is some semblance of e-processes, the national single window is being frustrated here in Nigeria because everybody is concerned about their interests at the ports,” he said.

Amiwero said NAFDAC, SON, NPA, Customs and Central Bank have duplicated processes, thereby causing congestion at the seaports, which he said requires quick implementation of the single window to harmonise their operations.

He accused the government of politicising initiatives to improve the ease of doing business at the ports, noting that America, Singapore and Senegal have seamless port operations due to the single window.

“Countries are applying a single window because it is a system that has to harmonise all processes in terms of delivery, transaction and administration. Nigeria is just involved in politics, launching initiatives without experts. You have to hamonise the agencies by either a law or a Memorandum of Understanding, which is where Nigeria is lacking,” he said.

National President, Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON), Frank Ogunojemite, said absence of a single window is one of the impediments to the ease of doing business in Nigeria’s seaports.

He said the absence of a single-window has hindered the effectiveness of port operations, thereby making the clearing process of cargoes cumbersome and expensive.

“The absence of a single-window has delayed the clearing process. The more the containers stay at the port the more costly it is. The amount of rent on the part of shipping and terminal operators reduces the turnover of the importers. When you look at the amount being paid on rent on cargo, we are talking about billions. At the end of the day, most of the rent – like the highest percentage of the terminal, shipping companies, which is mostly owned by foreigners – results in capital flight for the country and those are the things that lead to inflation in the country,” he lamented.

He said the impediment on the ease of doing business, which has declined trade facilitation in the nation’s seaports, costs the country billions of naira.

He also blamed supremacy among the various government agencies at the port for the unsuccessful implementation of the single window.

“It does not make Nigeria to be of international standard or in the comity of maritime nations because these are part of things that IMF complained about in 2019 coupled with other factors. Once the single window takes effect with the effect of other infrastructures, we will have better ports’ operations,” he said.

On his part, the Chairman of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) 100 per cent Compliance Team, Ibrahim Tanko, accused stakeholders of frustrating the implementation of the single window, as they are focused on continuing with ongoing corruption at the seaports.

“Some stakeholders do not like the single window, which is a very important issue that we need to all join hands together to make it work. Some port users still believe in the fast lane where they can make money faster. We are losing a lot of containers because of false declarations, importers and freight forwarders under-declare their cargoes to evade duty or probably pay a lower duty of about five per cent to 10 per cent. They also bribe their way out, which is why we created the 100 per cent compliance team to make people try to comply with the rules of the government,” he said.

He frowned on the idea of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria and NAFDAC stopping containers on the road and raiding warehouses when containers are being offloaded, adding that once the single window is in place, revenue losses on the part of government and business owners would be blocked.