The official launch of the Nigeria Trade Hub Portal (NTH) and the Nigeria Import, Export and Transit Process Manual last Monday at the Congress Hall, Transcorp Hotel, Abuja, once more brought to the fore the nagging issue of attainment of 48-hour target for clearance of cargoes from Nigerian ports. The fact that Ghana, Nigeria’s friendly rival in many spheres over the years has achieved the target and is even improving on this, rubs it in that Nigeria must realise and sustain the target soon enough.
At the launching ceremony, the Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said that the introduction of the NTH by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) will help achieve 48-hour cargo clearance at the ports. 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.”
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.
Others, who also waxed poetic about the emergent system, include: President, Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (MAN), Chief Kola Jamodu; Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Customs, Honourable Sabo Nakudu; and the National Presidents, respectively, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), and the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Prince Olayiwola debutant have Meanwhile, the National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu, and Chief Eugene Nweke.
While we , as true patriots, happily welcome the arrival of the new system, we fret that we can not just join the chorus of Eureka! Certainly not in the face of this very sobering matter of a Corruption Risk Assessment (CRA) Report released by a consortium, comprising the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption (TUGAR), and the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), with the support of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Nigerian ports, revealing that an importer or agent will require a minimum of 79 signatures of government officials to clear his/her goods at the gateways to the nation’s economy.