Nigeria needs to reform import-export, regulatory and transit procedures by implementing integrated policy and procedures that are globally accepted, experts have said.
According to them, this will ensure effective trade facilitation through the reduction of transaction costs, cargo dwell time and ensure safety and security of cargoes at Nigerian ports.
BusinessDay understands that Nigeria import-export, regulatory and transit procedures are burdened with lengthy, cumbersome processes that are associated with unnecessary delays, high transaction costs and increase of cargo dwell time, making the ports the most expensive globally.
Recall that the Federal Government under the Destination Inspection Scheme contracted the acquisition of cargo inspection scanners to some service providers, including Cotecna, SGS and Global Scan on a build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) basis, for a period of seven years from 1st of January 2006 to 31st December 2012, but was extended for one year.
Unfortunately, at the contract termination, the scanners were handed over to the Nigeria Customs, and are yet to be fully put into use due to the argument of the scanners being ‘broken’.
Lucky Amewiro, former member of Presidential Taskforce on Reform of Customs, said the breakdown of the scanners necessitated the adoption of 100 percent physical inspection of cargo by Customs, which is quite laborious in the un-stuffing and loading of goods.
“This resulted in serious delays, with high demurrage, rent, and high security implication for non-application of scanners for the detection of harmful goods, such as arms and ammunitions in line with international best practices,” he said.
Amewiro suggested the need for re-evaluation of the scanners to know the present state and update them as recommended by Smith Detection, the manufacturers of the scanners.
He further stated the need to look into the main cause of the collapse of the scanners, and if possible, work out a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement to maintain the scanners.
Amewiro, who said there was an urgent need to provide holding-bay at the port, and called the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to use part of 7% Port Development Levy (PDL), to develop port infrastructure such as holding-bay, trailer parks and port access roads.
He noted that absence of these infrastructures had increased the number of days to access and exit the port, with attendant carriage risk of continuous falling of containers due to the terrible condition of the port access roads.
Faulting the pre-shipment inspection process of Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) on SONCAP, which results in duplication of local procedure, increased cost and time of doing business at the port, Amewiro said the action created bottlenecks that resulted in high demurrage and rent due to delays.
He pointed that such processes should be harmonised to reduce cost and time of clearance.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Nicol, president of Shippers Association of Lagos State (SALS), who condemned the operations of the Nigeria Customs Strike Force, a unit of Customs, recently deployed to the port, said its presence was gradually militarising the port.
Nicol further condemned the modus operandi of the SON, which currently makes the environment of trade very unfriendly for shippers.
While noting that the activities of multiple checks duplicate procedure and increase costs, Amewiro said the multiple alerts by government agencies should be harmonised in line with international best standards.
He added that the activities of Federal Operation Unit (FOU) of Customs should be streamlined in order to concentrate on anti-smuggling activities, which should be 40 miles from the ports.