'Why Nigeria must reform import, export regulatory procedures'

Lucky Amiwero

Nigeria’s import and export regulatory procedures that currently jeopardise the ease of doing business at the seaports are expected to undergo comprehensive reforms, going by the position of licensed clearing agents.

The agents, in a petition to President , signed by the President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, alleged that the cumbersome processes currently being operated at the ports are posing a threat to businesses.

The petition reads in part: “Our import, export regulatory and transit procedures are encountered with lengthy, cumbersome procedures that are associated with unnecessary delays, high transaction cost and increase of cargo dwell time, which makes our port the most expensive in the globe based on verifiable statistical information.

“The reform to our import, export, regulatory and transit procedures is to implement an integrated set of policies and procedures that is globally accepted, which would ensure effective trade facilitation by the reduction of transaction cost, cargo dwell time and ensures safety and security of the process.”

Highlighting the various issues and challenges that cause setbacks to import and export activities, the agents urged the government to simplify the process through the removal of glitches that cause delay, multiplicity of product inspection, and high cost of export processes.

They noted that the collapsed cargo scanners should be re-evaluated and updated as recommended by the manufacturers – Smith Detection.

Amiwero, in the petition decried that scanners that were purchased at the cost of over €1.673 million are now left to rot away at the ports.

In a breakdown of the value of the five scanners as at November 2013, he estimated that the mobile scanners at the Warri Port were worth €663,645; mobile scanners at Apapa Port €407,123; fixed scanners at the Seme Border, €326,518; mobile scanners at the Idiroko Border, €200,052; and fixed scanners at Apapa Port, €76,152.

He also urged the government to look into the main factors that led to the collapse of the scanners, and work out a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement to maintain them by releasing part of the one per cent Free On Board (FOB) charges for their maintenance and repairs.

He advocated an executive order in the ports for the enforcement of port-related offences Act 61 of 1999, to enable a one-stop-shop process.

“The provision of the port (related) offences Act 61 should be implemented and enforced by the Federal Government, to reduce the multiplicity of agencies in the port in line with global practice, to reduce transaction time, and the cost of clearance from the ports,” he stated.

He lamented that Nigerian cargoes are being moved to other West African harbours as a result of the nation’s inefficient port system and drought level, which cannot accommodate mega ships.

“Port inefficiency that is associated with unwholesome practices, manipulated delays by providers of shipping service and other government agencies that resulted in high demurrage/rent, high transaction cost should be addressed urgently due to massive diversion and preference to other neighbouring West African ports,” he stated.

The petition also bemoaned the multiple checks, stoppage by numerous Customs units along the highways and delay in the clearance of goods.

The agents equally noted that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is a contracting party to the World Customs Organisation (WCO) Kyoto Convention on the Harmonization and Simplification of Customs Procedures; the Convention on Duplicity of Procedure; and Multiplicity of Customs units on Cargo Clearance Procedure.

Since these procedures increase time and cost of clearance, the group suggested that all import processes must be concluded at the port on a one-stop-shop process in line with international best practice as contained in WCO Kyoto Convention.

“The Customs must be made to comply with the provision of the Act and not imposition that is contrary to the provision of the law and global best practice,” they stated.

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