By Bisi Akingbade
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) revenue collections would have increased by additional 90 percent if the National Single Window has been deployed to the Nigerian ports, according to the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of the federal government.
Maritime stakeholders argued that the implementation of single window would have helped to reduce cargo delivery time to less than 10 days and further facilitate trade as all agencies operating at the port would have a one stop shop for cargo clearance and cargo evacuation from the ports.
However, the Minister of Finance, Hajia Zainab Ahmed recently said lack of single window platform at the seaports and lack of understanding among agencies of government was one of the reasons why Nigeria dropped one point on the World Bank ranking on Ease of Doing Business.
She said, “Lack of National Single Window is one of the reasons why in the last assessment of the World Bank Ease of Doing Business, we took a one-step slip.
“Recall that in the last one done, we moved 24 places but the last one, we slipped one-step down and the major reason is the single window and PEBEC which is the presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) led by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osibajo and ten ministers as members and the ministry of Finance and Customs which are charged with making sure that this Single Window finally come to being because single window brings about ten different agencies that of government and all of these different agencies have different views about how their own aspect of the trade should be facilitated so there are lot of drag because of lack of understanding.
“I think we have reached a stage now where we have an understanding of what the single window will be and the structure have to be approved and we have to do a process that will procure the equipment that would be deployed,” she stated.
The Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Shippers’ Council, Barrister Hassan Bello said lack of single window will eliminate inefficiencies and lead to simplification of documents and short dwell-time of cargoes at the seaports.
He said, “It has affected the efficiency of our port because the national single window is a trade facilitation platform preferably electronic that will bring all users and providers of shipping services together. Single window will eliminate inefficiencies and lead to simplification of documentation.
“It will lead to transparency and short dwell time of cargo. National single window and the Cargo Tracking Note are all trade facilitation platforms.”
He stated further, “The federal ministry of transportation is overseeing the Single window and already there is a committee set up by the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to look at this national single window which is being chaired by the NPA and the Nigerian Customs Service and the Nigerian Shippers Council is also a member.”
“So we are going through the procurement processes and it is hopeful that this single window will come on stream very soon.
Bello said the idea of the national single window was to make sure that the nation’s ports were more efficient and achieve clearance of cargo within 48 hours and for the nation’s ports to operate just like airport, 24/7.
Besides, he said the nation needs the national single window to block revenue leakage and with integration of systems, the agencies of government would provide the national single window.
He said “I am sure NPA will provide substantial input to Nigerian national single window, As a matter of fact, NPA has port community system which contains a lot of platforms. Shippers Council will contribute same thing, NIMASA will also contribute same thing”.
Shall-Homa, a former Director at the Nigerian Shippers Council, expressed regret over lack of single window at the Nation’s seaports, the country is losing both revenue and cargo clearance.
She said a single window has three disparities, ship, documentation and tracking, documentation itself with transaction, so we are losing in terms of transactions; we are losing in even understanding the way things are.
Also speaking on the absence of the National Single Window at Nigerian Seaports, the former National President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, (ANLCA), Olayiwola Shittu urged the Federal Government to support the adoption and implementation of a Single Window System, to enable swift movement of goods and services in the ports.
He stated: “When Single Window was established at the Cotonou Port, it reduced cargo delivery time from 40 days to less than 10 days. It increased government revenue by more than 39 per cent. In terms of truck transit down to port they gained 23 per cent of the time, so it is something we cannot run away from”.
“It is only here in Nigeria that there is no connectivity between the stakeholders; the terminal operators do not know what a shipping company is doing, port authority does not know what the terminal operator is doing, other government agencies don’t even know what the operators are doing.
“So there is need for us to work together and that is the essence of the port community system that is supposed to be a common platform for interaction so that the faster we embrace the single window system the better it’s going to be for the port and that is going to lead to cost reduction”
He further advised that there is need for cooperation among the various stakeholders in the industry for the system to work.