Customs Recommends Collaboration To Unlock AfCFTA Potential
…To Begin Decongestion of Ports Pursuant To 48Hrs Cargo Clearance
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
The Nigeria Customs Service has recommended collaboration between the service and the maritime industry to unlock the immense potential of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA).
The Comptroller General of Customs, Adewale Adeniyi, made this recommendation at the 43rd Annual Council Meeting and 18th Roundtable of Managing Directors/Exhibition of the Port Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA) on Monday, November 6, 2023, in Lagos.
Similarly, the NCS Management at a meeting with stakeholders in Lagos says it has concluded plans partner with relevant authorities to tackle the issue of overtime cargoes at the port in relation to achieving 48-hour s cargo clearance.
According to a statement by the NCS public relations office, the CGC stated that the objectives of the African Continental Free Trade Area present a beacon of hope for Africa’s economic transformation, ranging from promoting intra-African trade to sustainable economic growth.
He noted that “These goals resonate profoundly with the eight-point agenda championed by the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu”, adding:
“An agenda that aspires to ensure food security, end poverty, foster economic growth, create jobs, provide access to capital, ensure security, improve the ease of doing business, uphold the rule of law, and combat corruption.”
The CGC disclosed that Customs has taken proactive steps to align its activities with the aspirations related to trade facilitation and ports.
“Notably, our initiatives include transforming Nigeria into Africa’s most efficient trading nation, addressing the long-standing issue of port congestion, and enforcing the Presidential Directive for the 48-hour clearance of goods at seaports in accordance with Executive Order 001.
“Furthermore, we are redefining performance measures for key government agencies to emphasize trade facilitation, implementing the National Single Window trading platform, and launching a comprehensive transformational program to support export development,” he added.
The Customs Boss reminded participants of the need for Customs and the maritime industry to work together to ensure the success of AfCFTA.
“It is a powerful reminder that in this era of increased collaboration and interdependence, Customs and the maritime industry must work hand in hand to ensure the overall success of these initiatives,” he said.
He further explained that the success of AfCFTA is deeply intertwined with the maritime industry, which plays a vital role in Customs operations and the realization of AFCFTA’s objectives.
On the actualization of port decongestion and 48hours cargo clearance, the CGC on Monday, 6 November 2023, in Lagos, convened a meeting with stakeholders to address the urgent need for the evacuation of overtime cargoes at the port; an engagement that dovetailed into discussions at implementing a 48-hour Customs clearance process to promote facilitate trade.
He said, “The objective is to enhance customs procedures, ultimately reducing both time and the cost of conducting business.”
He highlighted the authority granted by the Nigeria Customs Service Act, 2023, allowing the NCS to remove overtime cargoes from the port. The CGC emphasized the importance of partnership, support, understanding, collaboration, and participation from all stakeholders to successfully clear the containers from the Ports.
He also announced the formation of a committee, as specified by the Act, which will include government agencies, representatives from terminal operators and shipping lines.
“This committee will manage the process of removing containers from the port”, even as he disclosed strategies designed to address issues related to Customs processes and procedures.
The strategies according to him include the plan to launch the Authorised Economic Operators (AEO) program, a robust risk management system, and a time-release study scheduled for the first quarter of 2024.
Stakeholders at the event pledged their support to alleviate the Ports from the burden of overtime cargoes. Gerald Mbamalu, representing ICP Bonded Terminal, called for government intervention to improve the road infrastructure, ensuring the smooth movement of trucks in and out of the Ports.
Tunde Keshinro, a Terminal Operator, emphasized that the challenges associated with overtime cargoes revolve around processes, including issues related to their location and the associated costs and charges.
He suggested that it would be more efficient to dispose of the cargo at their current location, streamlining the process and expediting the necessary steps.
To achieve the goal of a 48-hour clearance process, the Vice President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Hon. Princess Chi Eze, urged the CGC to maximize the use of scanners at Apapa Port.
In response, the Zonal Coordinator, Zone A, ACG Bello Jibo, stated that NCS is committed to monitoring the effective utilization of scanners by regularly visiting the Ports.