Nigeria tasked on trade barriers’ removal, infrastructure
President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, has called for a complete overhaul and review of policies that pose barriers to trade.
Amiwero, who x-rayed Nigeria’s maritime sector at 61, said the country has failed to live up to expectations of international standards of the maritime industry, adding that the present administration has eroded some gains achieved by previous regimes.
He said Nigeria should take cues from Cameroon, Togo, Ghana and Benin Republic on how the maritime industry operates.
“We have to change our system. We are closing borders, which is wrong. We need to go and do a memorandum of understanding like what America did. Go to Togo for example, engage its minister and tell them to be in charge of anything coming out of their country and that they would be held responsible. That is what we call mutual administrative assistance on customs matters and trans-border crimes. That is what other countries are doing. Nobody closes borders,” he said.
He also criticised the trend adopted by the present administration, whereby politicians who are not knowledgeable about the maritime industry are appointed into key positions to head offices they have no business running.
According to him, the Nigerian ports system should take a cue from neighbouring West African countries like Ghana that runs their ports devoid of politics.
He said only experts who have experience in the field and can deliver, are given such jobs to develop the sector at the right pace.
“Ghana protects her own indigenes. They have a trade law whereby if you are not a Ghanaian, you can’t run businesses there. That is why most of the time, they push Nigerians out and that law is still there, they have not repealed it, despite the ECOWAS treaty.
“Togo, Benin Republic and Ghana are building their ports, but Nigeria is selling its ports. Ghana is in charge of her ports, they take care of the traffic and the tariff on the cost of cargoes coming in, but Nigeria lost everything and there is no law.
“Nigeria controls 70 per cent of the cargo within the sub-region and within the three layers, we have lost almost close to 60 per cent of the cargoes within the three layers. We have lost completely in transit. We are not a transit nation anymore, because we have been delisted in transhipment. Cargoes coming into Nigeria are transshipped into the country; that means the bigger vessels go to other neighbouring countries and bring the smaller vessels into Nigeria.
“Most of the vessels going into North Africa and other sub-regions cannot come into Nigeria. Cameroon, Togo, Ghana and the Benin Republic all have deep seaports,” he explained.
According to him, for more than 15 years, Nigeria has been suffering from gridlock at the port’s access roads and it is costing us trillions. Nigeria operates one of the most expensive ports. We are inconsistent, unpredictable and lacks transparency”, he said.
The NCMDLCA boss described the much attention being paid to revenue collection by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) as a misplaced priority.
According to him, modern customs administrations focus on economic security and trade facilitation that will be beneficial to all players in the value chain and citizens.
“There is nowhere in the world where you hear customs boasting about how they made huge revenue. It doesn’t make sense to claim to collect big revenue while your economy is dying. Efforts should be to promote trade and expand citizens’ opportunities by protecting their overall economic interests. Most of these enforcement regimes being pursued by customs would be relaxed when the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) fully takes a course in Nigeria,” he said.
He added that the government has not done much to instil enduring legislation that will improve the maritime industry for the overall growth of the economy.
Amiwero who cited the Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC) Act as a law enacted for the protection of Shippers, said events in recent times demand that the NSC law be amended to give it the powers it presently wields.
He said that Ghana has amended its shipper’s council law and evolved into what is presently known as Ghana Shippers Authority with enabling laws to meet present-day demands.
On the withdrawal of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) scheme, Amiwero said the Federal Government does not have the power to withdraw its earlier approval for the release of $209m and N32b to Nigerian investors in the maritime industry.