The much-touted 48-hour target for clearance of cargoes from Nigerian ports may yet become a reality soon enough.
Indicating this much, Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said Monday in Abuja that the introduction of the Nigeria Trade Hub (NTH) Portal by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) will help achieve 48-hour cargo clearance at the ports.
Okonjo-Iweala spoke at the official launch of the NTH Portal and the Nigeria Import, Export and Transit Process Manual, where she was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Mrs Anastasia Nwobia.
The Minister, whose Ministry oversees the Customs, explained that NTH is the introduction of international trade in Nigeria and its interactive portals to assist importers or exporters with obtaining correct and timely information to enable them to make decisions about doing business in Nigeria.
She said: “The Nigeria Trade hub is similarly a useful step towards improving trade facilitation in our economy.
“`This initiative will simplify, harmonise and standardise procedures for Cross-border transaction in Nigeria.
“As a result, it will further reduce delays associated with cross-border trade and enable us attain our goal of 48-hour cargo clearance time at our port.”
Okonjo-Iweala said that the hub provides an integrated environment where appropriate regulatory information may be obtained.
The system, according to her, would facilitate commerce across borders and reduce costs of doing business in Nigeria.
Also speaking, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr Olusegun Aganga, said that the NTH was a veritable vehicle needed to drive the Nigerian trade cycle to the next level of development.
The portal, according to Aganga, met the trade facilitation framework for improved business climate, as articulated in the blueprint of Vision 20:2020.
“The launch of the information phase of the trade hub will facilitate the next phase, which allows for end-to-end transaction in a single window environment,” the Minister said.
He said that the benefits of the hub included transparency and predictable environment for trading community, cost and time efficiency, which would help international rating of doing business in Nigeria.
Noting that the hub would facilitate effective use of single window in trade in the country, Aganga said:
“The application of the single window would help in the modernisation and simplification of the processes and procedures of international trade in Nigeria.
“An efficient application will help in creating a competitive and enabling environment for cross-border trade in terms of reducing processing time and cost, hence enhancing regional economic integration.”
And in his address, Comptroller-General of Customs Dikko Inde Abdullah said that the Service and other relevant stakeholders over the past 18 months worked together to develop the hub.
The portal and the accompanying process manual, according to the Customs chief, would serve as invaluable guide and reliable reference tools for traders wishing to conduct legitimate and compliant business in Nigeria.
Abdullahi expalined that that the features of the portal include classification tool, currency converter, tax simulation, web link to other government agencies, 24/7 online accessibility, availability on mobile applications and interactive and intuitive features.
“For a long time, the trading community has yearned for information to promote transparency in the conduct of business.
“With the development of this hub, information is now placed at their disposal in a fast, convenient and cost effective manner,” he said, expressing hope that the development would help to achieve a regime of trade facilitation in a corruption-free environment.
Meanwhile, the National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu, has commended the Customs chief for “quietly, but with focused determination, achieving the laudable launch of the portal.”
Shittu said that the portal will further endear ANLCA to the global recognition it has gained as the best customs broker association in Africa.
Speaking in a similar vein, the National President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Chief Eugene Nweke, said that the NTH Portal provides easy accessibility of trade information irrespective of the location of the portal user, as much as it avails the trading public of a platform where they can advertise and transact their import /export businesses without having to go to the ports.
Nweke expressed no doubts about the workability of the portal in Nigeria, asserting that “if it has succeeded in Ghana, Senegal and some other places all over the world, why won’t it succeed in Nigeria?”
He said: “It is a very noble project that requires the cooperation of all the stakeholders within the maritime supply chain most especially the regulatory agencies of government. Some of them appear to be initiating an independent portal but that is neither here or there because this is one Nigeria, one port system, one constitution and of course one trade law so it should be encompassing. Everybody should show concern and commitment to ensure that this very project works successfully and simultaneously.”