BusinessDay
NigeriaDecides2023

E-customs critical to growth of Nigeria’s port industry

From spending over 21-days before cargoes can be cleared in Nigerian ports, this can be done within 7-days, removing one of the biggest barriers to international trade (and its profitability). Achieving this, however, will be through the long-awaited introduction of e-customs in Nigeria’s port administration.

For Nigeria’s port business to grow this year and deliver value to businesses that depend on the industry, as well as government revenue that would accrue, the introduction of electronic-customs, early implementation of 2021 budget and development of much-needed infrastructure around the nation’s port facilities have been identified as major determinants.

Industry experts speaking with Businessday noted that the Nigerian port industry requires paperless, automated and e-customs processes to drive timely cargo clearing that would help in the long run to reduce the skyrocketing cost of doing business at the ports.

Furthermore, effective development and deployment of infrastructure around the ports such as good road networks, rail lines, trailer parks and container holding bays would help to curb the persistent congestion of the port roads, which negatively impacts on cargo evacuation from the ports, they note.

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Cargo owners lose hundreds of billions of naira every year on account of the high cost of doing business associated with the payment of demurrage to shipping companies, rent to terminal operators and high haulage fare to truckers due to delay in cargo clearance. In addition, gridlocks that limit effective evacuation of cleared goods from the ports, thus the need for e-customs and infrastructure deployment.

According to Tony Anakebe, managing director of Gold-link Investment Limited, there is hope that the introduction of the e-customs system in the first quarter of the year would help in driving ease of doing business.

According to Anakebe, automated Customs processes will help to remove the clog in the wheel of progress so that Customs Licensed Agents and their importers would be able to take their goods out of the port as quickly as possible.

“If the implementation of e-customs starts as quickly as the first quarter of 2021, it would help to reduce a lot of hiccups in the port,” Anakebe said in an interview with Businessday.

He further pointed out the need for early implementation of 2021 budget, which he said the government needs to put in motion as early as this January to help drive the much-needed economic growth.

“What we are seeing around the world is not encouraging, especially as it concerns the issue of rising cases of coronavirus. But with good monetary and fiscal policies from the Federal Government, the economy would be back on a soundtrack soonest. Also, the government is making several efforts to borrow funds and there is a need to pump in those monies borrowed into building infrastructure because it would help to drive the economy,” he said.

On his part, Jonathan Nicol, president, Shippers Association of Lagos State, expressed concern over the high level of extortion and corruption in the ports, especially in the area of cargo evacuation. He said there was a need for government to invest in the repair of bad portions of the roads leading to ports in order to allow trucks in and out of the ports seamlessly.

The government needs to pay more attention to infrastructure development to enhance ease of doing business and reduce the cost for shippers at the port this year, he said.

For Emma Nwabunwanne, a Lagos-based importer, the government needs to open up the port system by ensuring ports in Calabar, Warri and even Onitsha River Port become fully operational.

The government needs to invest in developing those ports, and also allow private investors to run them, Nwabunwanne said.

He also pointed out the need to deliver and deploy functional scanners at ports to reduce delays that come with 100 percent physical examination of imports.

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