The President of the Nigerian Maritime Law Association (NMLA) Mrs Funke Agbor SAN has accused the Federal Government and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) of placing high premium on revenue generation instead of trade facilitation.
Funke Agbor stated this at the association’s maiden stakeholders briefing in Lagos on Monday.
Speaking at the event she noted that the maritime is an economic sector that has not been fully utilized or exploited by the government,and
that is as a result of over-dependency of Customs revenue and oil export.
“The money that the customs are making is not allowing government to see why customs should move into trade facilitation rather than revenue generation”she said.
She however stated that time to do things differently was now. As part of the objectives of NMLA was to ensure that members and players in the maritime industry have discussions that center around the interest of the sector and making it the hub for economic activities in the Gulf of Guinea.
The NMLA briefing a national branch of the Comit Maritime International (CMI) is a rallying point for stakeholders, using the information, facts and figures that practitioners have gathered to speak to the government on the need to do things differently.
The President refuted the notion that although government believes that empowering Customs to go into trade facilitation, the revenue been generated by the agency would reduce drastically but that was not going to happen hence other channels of revenue would open. “so we now have to show government that they can get it from somewhere else such as Shippings, Logistics, Freight and things like that” she stated.
She stated further that the association would serve as an advocacy group, providing data analysis, facts and figures and use same to penetrate government on areas of utilization and enhancement.
Similarly, the managing director/CEO Analysis Data Services and Resources Ltd, Dr Afolabi Olowookere hinged his argument on complexity of Nigerian Ports as key factor affecting export and import alike. According to him “there are many agencies at the port. Some of the ports are even designed more for import than for export. Dr Afolabi who made a statistical and analytical briefing on the theme “The Nigerian Maritime Industry in the context of Emerging Economic Trends: challenges, outlook and opportunities”, stated that so much more needs to be done in the ports.
He reiterated the urgency and need for a single window and automation processes for ease of doing business. He noted that these multiple windows and agencies cause a lot of problems which are mostly not found in other countries. He stated that according to available figures, countries like South Africa and other members of Gulf of Guinea (GoG) such as Ghana and Benin Republic are better in Port and Customs services than Nigeria. Hence why many people take their goods to those places and find a way of bringing it back to Nigeria because it may be easier.
He also commended the government in the recent reduction of piracy in GoG stating that in the last five years, 70 percent of the piracy attack in the GoG happened in Nigeria. He called on government to maintain the momentum of the 2021 even though it would be an harculean task solving the problem in one sweep.
Dr Olowookere also talked of the need for government to look at all external and internal factors that helps to facilitate trade like the Trade Facilitation Agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and see how they can be deplored to exploit trade. He however noted that it all centres on ease of processes which would attract more investors and vessels. “So we just need to automate our processes, make it efficient, remove bureaucracy and build infrastructures” he said.
In the same way, the Managing Director Niger/Benue Transport Company Ltd. Mrs Seyi Oluyede started the need for policy consistency. She argued that Policy is one of the hindrances Undermining the growth of the maritime industry. She stated that policy inconsistency, improper implementation and not adequately connecting are major factors to look into. She called for the need for increase in advocacy roles to help drive long and favorable policies considering that it takes as long as about 20 years for Return on Investment (RoI).
Drawing the curtain, Mrs Funke Agbor SAN said although some of the issues raised has been on the floor for over 40 years, still all concerned stakeholders must continue to lend their voices and that with the emergence of the NMLA briefing, things would surely be done differently.