This strong position paper is born out of passion to offer reasonable suggestions that will improve and move our Maritime sector forward, especially, with a consideration to boosting our international trade supply and security chain, as well as taking our place of pride in the Sub-Region.
The need for a joint resolution by the Federal Ministries ( of: Transport, Finance, Agriculture,Trade and Health ) towards the review of the existing Single Window Presently, domiciled with the Nigeria Customs Service ( which imports appears to be misdirected, as practically experienced) and to re-establishing a much robust, all encompassing and all embracing National Single Window can not be overemphasized.
Regulatory agencies of the government, especially, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Nigeria Customs Service, NAFDAC, SON, NIMASA, NPA, CRFFN, must jettison its respective existing and personal serving look alike Single Window platform, for the sake of National trade interest. A collective regulatory obligations, should be channeled in pursuant to the actualization of a competitive, predictable, business friendly port environment in our Country, is apt at this point in time.
One issue that remains a major concern to both the government and private sector is the delays and it’s associated cost of doing business in our ports.
The inefficiencies in doing business in our port /trade environment are expensive to the economy and increased the cost of goods which is borne ultimately by both Customers, Consumers and Producers in the economy.
Beside the presently launched Standard Operating Procedures and the Port System Support Platform, already domiciled with the Council, suffice to restate that, looking at our port system in relation to trade volume and performances, the said Ministries and its agencies , must form a common front to complement the WTO trade facilitation Implementation agreements. Such efforts will truly assist to achieving micro economic stabilization and enhancement, hence, the need for them to chart a new order for the re-establishment of an inclusive National Single Window, with a focus on integrating into a Regional Single Window.
Just to draw our attention on the existing reality, though, it is not in my character to do a direct under rating of my country Nigeria, but by comparison, lead my reading audience into factual statements, I wish to refer to the World Bank Reports On The Ease of Doing Business- Trade Across Border. I encourage you to visit WWW.doingbusiness.org. It make for reading delight to review the Ghana reports and the intervention, thereafter by the Ghanaian government.
THE WORKD BANK REPORTS ON THE EASE OF DOING BUSINESS -TRADE ACROSS BORDER.
Highlighting the bottlenecks in Trade Facilitation in Africa (please www.doingbusiness.org).
In a recent report by the World Bank , 2016 reports on the Ease of Doing Business, having clearly highlighted some of the bottleneck in trade facilitation in Africa, though Nigeria was ranked and rated poorly.
But it suffice, to observe the most striking action taken by the government of Ghana, as a fallout from its rating and ranking by the World Bank.
The rating runs thus:
1). Cost to Export: Covering the time and cost of obtaining, preparing and submitting documents for border handling, Customs clearance and inspection procedures is about USD$490 compared for the estimate to OECD Countries of USD$160.
2). The Time and Cost of Documentary Compliance: Covering the time used to Obtaining documents, Preparing documents, Presenting documents, Submitting documents is equivalent to 5days, compared to Sub- Sahara Africa average of 2days and 4 hours in an OECD Countries.
Uncomfortable with this ranking, the Government of Ghana on the 1st of December,2015 organized a National Single Window Conference, to herald the adoption of a National Single Window Project in Ghana.
On 4th August,2016, the Ghana parliament concluded legislative proceedings on the National Single Window, now awaiting the President’s assent for it to become Law.
Recall, that, following a public hearing in 2011/2012 on a National Single Window, as proposed by certain individuals and group, then, the Nigeria Customs intervention, at the NASS, in 2013 – 2014, subsequently, through a concerted efforts by the Nigeria Customs Services, acting as a lead agency, launched a National Single Window Project – NICIS,
Apparently, like stated earlier the project seems to be tactically avoided by critical stakeholders ( especially other agencies of the government that prefer to owe and manage an independent platform) on account of detest of Customs being the Lead agency, thereby throwing up question of inclusiveness and acceptability of the project?.
This demoralizing stands, promoted lack of commitment and patronage from other regulatory agencies of the government to the said platform, then, skeptical supports rom the trading public, even as internally sponsored anti- NICIS was observed amongst some relevant government ministries ( this is unlike Ghana that had 6 ministries’, over 22 Agencies of the government and numerous private sectors backing the NSW Project).
The World Bank reports on the Nigeria Ease of doing Business across the border, doubling that of Ghana without a NSW, is without prejudice is a total defeat of an exiting NSW Project in sight, please visit www.doingbusiness.org.
Against this backdrop, there is urgent need for the said ministries and its agencies to redouble their commitment to leadership, by intervening to achieve this noble project. The need for joint synergy and collaboration with stakeholders to simplify our port cargo handling practices, clearance processes and procedures, so as to achieve efficiency through the elimination of delays and reduce human contact to cargo in the port environment.
So to say there must be a joint commitment to deliberately speeding up the movement of goods across border by addressing significant issues relating to bottlenecks, that impedes on trade facilitation, by so doing trade transaction will cost less and improve predictability in the cargo delivery time.
There is no doubt stating, that, all hands must be on the deck (private sectors and government) to galvanize and provide enough co-oporation and resources in order to fast-track the full implementation of the WTO trade facilitation Implementation agreement cum National Single Window.
KEY BENEFITS OF IMPLEMENTING A NATIONAL SINGLE WINDOW IN NIGERIA
Sir, permit me to re-emphasis more on the key benefits of the implementation of the National Single Window in Nigeria:
a). It affords the provision of a convenient and a one stop integrated services through multiple channels.
b). It promotes the use of information communication technology (ICT) to electronically link Government Agencies that are involved in the trade process.
c). It accelerate the release of cargo and clearance by means of simplification of trade related processes and procedures among controlling units or agents.
d). It provides for simplified treatment (uniformity and conformity) for the trading community, through the elimination of duplicated process.
e). It creates room for an enabling vast trade Facilitation practices, by providing a full transparent and predictable border environment, while ensuring safety and security through a high performance risk management.
f). The enhancement of transparency and impartial treatment in the physical and Customs frame work, and the significance reduction in corruption by improving methods to counter dishonest practices and reducing discretion.
g). Though trading on goods is a complex process for any country, even to balance the challenges to ensuring security and protection with the need for growth and for the economic development of the Nations, the emergence of a NSW, is key in providing solutions and alleviating the complexities of trade practices.
h). The NSW will enhance transparency, accountability, achieve remarkable ease in the cost of doing business in our border, while at the same time strengthening revenue collection. More so, the canvassed benefits of the recently launched Standard Operation Procedures will leap a quantum boosting, with regards to complementary benefits.
BEARING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A REGIONAL SINGLE WINDOW IN MIND.
It is important to note that many counties around the world that has embraced and successfully implemented the NSW and such Countries has wittiness tremendous and remarkable Transformation in their business climate.
Therefore, for emphasis sake, the said Ministries must take a definite bold step of intent and align it self to further improve our business environment by revolutionizing and implementing trade policies such as a full fledged National Single Window, which is consistent with the government recognition of Private Sectors as a key building for continued economic growth and developments.
For reference sake, Mauritius , Tunisia, Mozambique, presently Ghana, etc are among countries that have are implementing a full fledged NSW in Africa.
There is a considerable impetus in regional and international fora for greater connectivity between Countries, regions and across continents.
In buttressing this position, recall that, in year 2005, the Asians Community conceptualized a ‘Regional Single Window’ – RSW Project.
Subsequently, they established a protocol for the creation of Regional Single Window, it is proactively important, therefore, that Nigeria can not be allow to continuously dwell on multiple, self style and self seeking Single Windows without harnessing National objectives.
Nigeria as the pride of Africa, with its trade volume, must move up to host an acceptable, robust, uniquely National Single Window, with a capacity to migrate into a regional and continental single window in the course of time.
Nigeria trade environment had witnessed such a critical time, where it became a global practices, for the Customs administration to out sources it’s core responsibilities through contacts with the government to private companies that undertakes Pre-shipments inspections and Destination Inspection activities, a practices that is currently being short changed by different Customs administrations globally.
Over the years, the adoption and implementation of effective Customs Policy Measures, which include operational efficiencies and Facilitation of Trade in Nigeria has not yielded the expected dividend due to its lopsidedness, highhandedness, skeptisms, unreliable data provisions, uncertainties, incessant system breakdown, non compliance, sharp practices, etc
On this note, I want to clearly state, that, the time to rights our wrongs of yesterday is now.
Going forward, i wish to do a general synopsis on trade facilitation and single window, to aide my reading audience’s appreciation and enlightenment on the subject under discourse:
GENERAL DISCOURSE : SYNOPSIS ON TRADE FACILITATION AND SINGLE WINDOWS-
BETWEEN TRADE FACILITATION AND REVENUE??
Trade facilitation and revenue generation are two great enemies, but can be reconciled.
Trade facilitation is anchored on the principles of elimination of delays and maximization of time .
Revenue generation refers to a process of scrutinization and probing of trade informations for the purpose raising tax base for the government .
In reconciling between these two strange but important tool for sake of ease in doing business, the referencing point will be the; UNITED NATION RECOMMENDATION 33-provides that trade lodgments should be done with a standardize information and document into a “single entry point”.
WHAT IS A SINGE WINDOW?
Under the World Trade Organization- Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), it is noted that nothing is common or singular with all single window projects , because, different peculiarities plays out itself at the beginning and during the project implementation.
However, single window can be defined as a “facility that allows parties involved in the international trade and transport to lodge standardized information and documents with a single entry point to fulfill all imports and exports requirements”. – Tom Butterly(the Celebrated father of single window).
A single window is an evolutionary process therefore it’s instructive to note that a single window is not an end in itself -trade facilitation remains the key indicator.
BACK GROUND TO TRADE FACILITATION
-Product harmonization and classification as an Integral trade facilitation tool was intended with a view to expediting or fast tracking the movement of goods across the borders.
-While the World Customs Organization -WCO, proposes and canvasses for technical assistance and capacity building as way to Strengthening Customs corporations, the WTO on its part canvasses for the establishment of the National Trade Facilitations Agreements (NTFA) amongst members.
-In the context of the WTO, TFA provides for the binding of all trade disputes.TFA provides for a general frame work for multilateral trade negotiations and applicabilities.
-To achieve these , the WTO evolves a wider negotiations, in addition to negotiations on non tool for trade facilitation.
In the WTO main provision, the agreements is structured into three(3):
(a) Article seven(7)-dealing with the acceptance of Electronical Process, Post Clearance Audits and Pre-arrival Assessments as trade agreements .
(b) Article 8-Emphasizing need to strengthening Customs corporation between borders.
(c) Article 12- Emphasizing on corporation between National Customs.
In addition, the provision also, allows countries to decide when to implement each of the WTO provisions on trade facilitation agreement. Therefore it sets out three (3) approaches:
-category ‘A’- country agrees when to enforce. -category. ‘B’-considerations after transition periods.
-category. ‘C’-Embracing capacity building
Further more, article 13 and 22 provides for special and different treatments and article 23- provides for institutional arrangements .
It s note worthy to state that Nigeria is among the countries that has rectified the WTO – Trade Facilitation Agreements.
TRADE FACILITATION AGREEMENT-WTO-WCO COLLABORATION
WTO – Trade Facilitation Agreement -TFA was adopted in 2013.
WCO supports the content of the agreement because, trade is all about Customs and Customs are at the fore front of every borders .
WCO champions Customs Modernization in this regards, as a deliberate key efforts to achieving supports for trade facilitation and the promotion of investment to signatory members.
Its on record that the WCO picked up this subject(Trade facilitation) in 2001 at the start of DOHA Development Agenda. Since then, the WCO has been very supportive with the WTO to ensure that the agreements gains enough political supports and to achieve it’s real benefits to WTO members.
When the trade facilitation agreement was concluded, the WTO in its annual conference in 2014 discussed the Trade Facilitation Agreement -TFA, especially, that aspect where changes are envisaged, hence, the WTO looked up to the WCO for supports in the TFA implementation ,Why? Because the WCO has the experience, samples, data, expertise and experts.
THE PRINCIPLES OF COLLABORATIONS
<> Hence, the WCO is committed to the WTO trade facilitation agreement contents, because it is based on WCO standards, known as the Revised Kyoto convention .
<> The idea of its adopting the WTO standards is to ensure that the higher principles of the WCO instruments are adequately incorporated into the WTO Agreements, this will pave way for gaining and getting political supports amongst different Global and National Policy Makers.
<> The WCO collaborated and is indeed collaborating with critical institutions beside the WTO, for the pursuance to the actualization of this objective.
<> It is evidence that Global and National donors has indicated willingness to help in this regards and beneficiary to them.
<> Another area of benefits of this trade facilitation agreement is that of the stakeholder engagements at borders.
<> The objective of trade facilitation agreement is to ease business, make trading easier , and contribute positively to the economic competitiveness
> Achieving these, entails partnership and collaboration with all business and trade interest at the border-so Customs has the task to fashion out a Customs to business partnership agreements.
<> In addition , Customs,in this direction will fashion out partnership with other agencies of the government at the border, so that government regulatory interest at the border will not be defeated, thus requiring deliberate coordination, corporation and collaboration at the borders.
<> A critical realization tool for this deliberate agreement is the “single windows ” – which is using a technology to bring all business interests, practices and requirements in a single or central platform, which eases and promotes stakeholders engagements electronically .
<> The WTO produced the TFA implementation guide and also established the working groups , involving many other government agencies and businesses, so as to have a ‘uniform interpretation’ of the WTO -TFA.
<> The WCO launched a ‘NEKITA’ programme aimed to promote and achieve the capacity building assistance for the implementation of this agreement , the ” National Single Window” being part of it.
<> In achieving a single windows applications, it is important to note ;
(a). The interest of donors and business interest need to be identified.
(b).The Institutionalization of all identified partners.
(c). The Establishing of a comprehensive National Committee on Trade Facilitation Agreement- TFA committee
(d). Engage the ministry of trade more often , since it is common for the Trade Ministry to establish and formulate trade policies, which must be implemented by the customs, so positive and prompt engagement will assist to ease in doing business .
(e). Simply put, customs and the ministry of trade should work together, having more corporations than ever, so as to achieve seamless Integrations and operational synergy and compliance.
(f). Government agencies and critical business interest should also collaborate and corporate with the Customs, as both sides are beneficiary to an effective and efficient trading environment.
(g). These type of canvassed synergy and corporation is the basis for the National Committee on Trade Facilitation requires in deriving its strength to paving way for National partnership approach, anchored on inclusive approach. Naturally, this approach opens up the area of promoting the use of technology applications to administering operations(which is single windows), becomes inevitable.
(h). In the evolution of a national single window, the identified stakeholders (National Committee on Trade Facilitation ) , Firstly, identify’s what are the existing bottle necks and challenges to trade facilitation in the country.
(I). Secondly, identified Stakeholders proffers, how to mitigate against such challenges so as to improve their overall performances on the Customs and other business on one side and Customs and other agencies of the government on the other side.
(j). This corporation must add value to the system, promote strong competitiveness on progressive basis in the trade environment.
– DR EUGENE NWEKE.