‘Nigeria must facilitate trade to optimise benefits from AfCFTA’
For Nigeria to derive full benefits from the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), it must redefine its posture towards inter-regional trade and address inherent and systemic debilitating factors that hamper trade.
The Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Haastrup, who disclosed this during a panel session, titled, “Trade Facilitation – Nigeria Agenda for AfCTA,” at the just concluded Nigeria International Maritime Summit (NIMS) in Lagos, said trade facilitation depends on port productivity/efficiency, customs processes, the regulatory environment and the deployment of e-business.
Haastrup said despite the efficiency of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and port terminal operators, the major challenges confronting the system, and by extension, Nigeria’s trade facilitation drive, result from manual Customs processes, overregulation, and poor transportation/logistics infrastructure.
“We have a situation where people must visit the port physically to do their customs documentation and cargo examination before they can take delivery of their consignments. This is inefficient. The Nigeria Customs Service should do everything possible to install functional scanners at the port to reduce the high rate of physical examination of cargoes and to reduce human contacts.
“I am aware that Customs recently deployed a scanner each to Apapa, Tin Can and Onne ports. This is a good development but a lot more scanners will need to be acquired considering the volume of cargoes at those ports and also to cover other port locations and border posts. The deployment and use of scanners for cargo examination will reduce human contacts, reduce arbitrariness and cut down on cargo dwell time,” she said.
She also described corruption among government officials in and around the port as a pervasive problem, saying: “Corruption discourages trade because it causes traders to pay higher fees on their goods before the final clearance. This results in higher-priced goods and commodities in the market.”
“Finally, high transportation costs coupled with poor road and rail infrastructure rank high among the major reasons for the low competitiveness of the Nigerian economy. Oftentimes, the cost of transporting goods within the country and across borders is extremely high and traders encounter bureaucratic bottlenecks that cause delays. This also has the effect of increasing the cost of products and reducing the shelf life of perishable goods, which lowers their market value. This impairs the value of our non-oil export,” she said.