Shippers’ Council tackles issues in new guide
Stakeholders in the industry are worried that barriers to trade in the region have triggered increase in cost, particularly the import and export of processed cereals in the country.
Concerned by these challenges, the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), in collaboration with Border less Alliance, has provided a guide to unhindered cross-border trade in the West African sub region.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), had rated Africa as having the highest cost of transporting goods between destinations and across all modes of transportation. Some of the identified barriers include non-tariff barrier, illicit payment, seasonal or permanent export bans, non-compliant trucks, operations of forwarding agents, and non-harmonisation of working hours at the borders, and many others.
Executive Secretary, NSC, Hassan Bello, said: “We must work assiduously to reduce these unnecessary costs by eliminating all the barriers to trade, and making our products more competitive in the international market.”Bello spoke at the official launch of a new handbook on procedures for import and export of processed cereal (maize, cassava, sorghum, and millet) under the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS).
He said this would acquaint traders with the protocols and procedures, and how it can be effectively utilised to enhance cross-border trade in the region.He said: “We believe that the knowledge would enable parties involved in trade and transport to facilitate cross-border trade, and invariably increase the capacity for commerce and reduce cost of trading especially for small scale traders in ECOWAS sub region.”
Bello, who was represented by the Director, Consumer Department, NSC, Cajetan Agu, said removing obstacles to intra-regional integration in the ECOWAS sub-region would be particularly beneficial to the small scale traders that conduct cross-border commerce within the sub region.He highlighted the benefits to include food security, job creation, poverty reduction, increased tax revenues for authorities and long term development outcomes.
“It is our believe that if the stakeholders and authorities comply with approved standards and rules, barriers to trade would automatically ease off and pave way for seamless operations at our borders. The public and private sector should therefore synergise to achieve the necessary cost effectiveness in doing business in the sub-region,” he said.
Advocacy Programme Adviser, Borderless Alliance, Mrs Afua Eshun, said the handbook proffers solutions to identified problems across the region, urging importers and exporters to take advantage of the ETLS by following the procedures and protocols in the handbook.She said presently, the focus is on Nigeria, Ghana, Niger, and Burkina Faso, adding that plans are in the pipeline to include details for other countries in the region.
A trader and Public Relations Officer, West African Road Transport Union (WARTU), Salami Nasiru, said the handbook is a good development, but called for complete overhaul and harmonisation of the system to aid regional trade. He decried the lack of Customs interconnectivity, unharmonised tariff, and favouritism as some of the factors inhibiting trade.
He also noted that different policies at various borders are making regional trade difficult, adding that some powerful cabals in the public service have dominated the system, at the expense of smaller traders. National Secretary, Importers Association of Nigeria (IMAN), Kingsley Chikezie, lauded the Shippers’ Council, Borderless, and the UKAID for developing the important document to reduce barriers to trade in the sub-region.