To get a real picture of trade activities between Nigeria and other countries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region, a combined team of World Bank experts is presently visiting the country.
The team led by the World Bank Africa Region International Trade Consultant, Antoine Coste, visited the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) last Thursday where they gave reason for their visit to Nigeria as to identify some of the most binding constraints to trade and integration in the region.
The team leader said that the World Bank and West African Monetary Institute (WAMI) is interested in getting a hindsight on the transport/logistics and freight forwarding services, and other trade dimensions in countries of the West African region.
Coste said that his team has, on this course, visited some of these countries and met with key stakeholders in their public and private sectors.
He said that their visit to ANLCA is on the knowledge that the association is one of those at the central point of the trade logistics chain in Nigeria and has a very precise view on the constraints in trade transactions either at the nation’s ports or land borders.
Based on this, the team sought an overview assessment of the structure of freight forwarding in Nigeria, and the process of customs clearance within Nigeria and between its neighboring countries.
An interactive session to this effect commenced with the ANLCA National President, Prince Olayiwola Shittu, enlightening the World Bank team of the achievements of the association as it relates to its international exposure followed by a presentation by his Senior Special Assistant on Technical Matters, Francis Omotosho, on the mechanism of the Nigerian port system and the stakeholders involved in the freight forwarding chain.
Omotosho brought to the fore the relevance of the freight forwarding regulatory body in Nigeria- the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) and the role its members play as customs agents and logistics service providers in the transport chain.
He explained the constraints to the efficiency of the regulatory body as the lack of compliance among its members to its regulations and lack of funds.
The ANLCA boss in contribution to the discourse pointed out that when the Council was established there was no defined role for the various freight forwarding subsectors except for that of customs brokerage which has turned out to be the “honey pot” of the industry.
He said that the effect of this is to the disadvantage of customs brokers as they have now have to compete heavily with non professionals who duplicate their functions.
He mentioned touting, communication gap among industry stakeholders, and dominance of the ports and land borders by so-called agents without customs licenses as inhibiting factors to free trade flow.
He said that these challenges distort efficient customs clearance procedures and results in delay of movement of the cargo out of the ports.
The ANLCA boss also mentioned the lack of compliance to import regulations, unwarranted interferences of government agencies, extortion of customs agents as a result of constant physical contact between them and the government officials in the course of cargo clearance as other challenges.
He however expressed confidence that, when fully implemented, the new electronic clearance regime introduced by the Nigeria Customs Service will address these challenges but pointed out that this can further be helped if the Nigerian government reduces its dependence on revenue generated by Customs.
The ANLCA president urged the World Bank team to intervene on behalf of the association to the government for a portion of the revenue remitted by Customs because its members play a key role in generating the revenue.
He also sought the team’s help in linking the association with capacity building programmes for its members and possibly, sources of funding.
Other top executive ANLCA members present at the meeting also made significant contributions to the discussion as it relates to their various operational terrains.
At the end of the session, the World Bank team expressed satisfaction with the feedback noting that it will help a lot in their mission even as they promised to keep the association abreast with the outcome of their organization’s trade facilitation project.
As customary of ANLCA, members of the team were made honorary members of the association as they were each decorated with the ANLCA brooch.