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‘Why Nigeria’s import, export procedures failed’

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(Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Nigeria’s import, export, regulatory and transit procedures are encumbered by lengthy procedures associated with unnecessary delays, high transaction cost, and increase of cargo dwell time, which make the local ports among the most expensive in the globe.

These are the major factors that have bedevilled the successful regulation and smooth trade practices in Nigerian seaports, according to the National Council of Managing Directors of Customs Agents (NCMDCA).

National President, NCMDCA, Lucky Amiwero, in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, said all these factors contribute to the inefficiencies in the port system coupled with low draught level of the Nigerian ports.

He described these as the main reasons the country lost the transhipment hub status to other West African countries.

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Amiwero, who is a former member of the Presidential Taskforce on the Reform of Nigeria Customs Service, said there is an urgent need for reforms on import, export, regulatory and transit procedures. Such a move will help to implement integrated set policy and procedures that are globally accepted, to ensure effective trade facilitation by the reduction of transaction cost,(TC) cargo dwell time (CDT), and ensure safety and security(SS) of the processes in Nigerian ports.

He said except there is a change in infrastructure rehabilitation, Nigeria will continue to lose cargoes to neighbouring countries, which have deep seaports and better facilities.

Amiwero, in the letter dated May 19th, said it is sad that Nigerian ports cannot accommodate mega ships with 8000-20000 TEUs, unlike what obtains in others ports. These are already positioned as “millennium ports, preferred, transhipments or load centre,” adding that most West African ports were built to accommodate Nigerian bound cargoes given the country’s poor infrastructure.

He also identified Cotonou, Lome, Ghana, and Cameroun as countries, which have either completed their deep sea projects or near completion, noting that while Nigerian ports draught is between 8 and 13 meters, which cannot accommodate mega ships, the least draught in other ports is 15 meters.

For instance, Lome port is 15.5 meters, Cotonou 15, Ghana 19 and Cameroun 16 meters, adding that most Nigerian bound goods by mega ships are transhipped from these countries with smaller vessels.

He therefore called on the Federal Government to wake up by designing the concept of a deep sea/transhipment centre to accommodate large E-Class vessels/mega ships of 8000 – 20000 TEUs that are currently demanded regionally and globally.

This, he said, will end the diversion of goods to neighbouring ports, while government should also address the unwholesome practice of manipulated delays by providers of shipping services and other government agencies, which have led to high demurrage, rent and high transactional costs.

Describing such practices as inimical to the efficiency of the port system, Amiwero said such issues need to be addressed for the sake of the national economy.

“There is the need to re-claim our cargo from neighbouring West African countries that is now hub for Nigerian cargoes, by working out mechanism for a better developed regional HUB to consolidate on our destination of Nigerian cargo that has been siphoned by regional ports,” he told the President.

He equally other peculiar localised challenges like the Nigeria Customs Service, as multiple alerts as inimical to trade facilitation.

“The process of multiple alerts should be harmonised and complied with International best practice on a One-stop-Shop, as contained in WCO revised Kyoto Convention that compel contracting parties to harmonise, and simplify their procedures to forestall complexities.

Also, he advised that the Federal Operation Unit (FOU), should be streamlined to concentrate only on anti-smuggling activities 40 miles radius from the port in line with its formation.

“All import process should be conducted in the port as a one-stop-shop process, and eliminate the double examination, delays Demurrage and the offloading of goods at the Federal operation, which is additional cost to the Importer/Customs Agents.

“The activities of multiple checks duplicate procedure and increase cost, which contravene WCO Kyoto convention, IMO FAL Convention and WCO SAFEframe Work of Standard to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade. It duplicate procedures, and is a disincentive to foreign direct investment (FDI) on complying with international conventions and protocol, which we are contracting and the concern of our international trading partners,” he said.

Amiwero said Nigeria lost the transit status in West Africa due to: lengthy and cumbersome procedure; diversion of goods into domestic consumption; out of date procedure; no national guarantee scheme to secure duty; lack of modern transit facilities; no transit module and lack of coordination of government agencies.

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