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Two years after, National Single Window remains in limbo

Two years ago, the Federal Government promised to establish a national single window to facilitate clearance of goods and stop corruption at the ports. The government is yet to fulfil its promise. OLUWAKEMI DAUDA reports
About two years ago, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, promised to set up a National Single Window (NSW) platform to be managed by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). It was to be funded from the one per cent Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme.
Stakeholders said to end arbitary charges and payments and boost revenue from the non-oil sector, a single window must be put in place by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
The stakeholders spoke in separate interviews with The Nation.
An importer, Chief Solomon Ibidapi, said the government is losing 30 per cent of its revenue to the arbitrary charges.
“Without arbitrary charges and under-the-table payments, Nigerian port charges have been adjudged one of the cheapest in the West African region, going by the guidelines put in place by the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
“Based on the official tariffs,  port charges remain very cheap, but some uncertainties like ship security and safety have added to the cost and that is why we have many uncleared goods at the ports.”
He added: “When the cargoes are discharged, the process of clearance is very cumbersome, ranging from locating the container to going through the long room of the Customs Service.
“Then arranging for transport to take your cargo out of the port is another issue entirely.These are added costs that will eventually make the importers say the ports are the most expensive. So, what we need to do is for the Federal Government to implement the National Single Window to address those bottlenecks here and there so that we have a free flow of cargo in and outside the ports.”
An analyst Mr Muhammed Aladejobi said: “The implementation of a single window system will enable international (cross-border) traders to submit regulatory documents at a single location and/or single entity. Such documents are typically customs declarations, applications for import/export permits, and other supporting documents, such as certificates of origin and trading invoices.’’
Aladejobi lamented that Nigeria is the only country in Africa without a single window platform.
He recommended that the policy on single window be implemented to discourage physical examination of cargo by men and officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
Lack of implementation of a single window platform is reportedly costing Nigeria N1.08 trillion revenue yearly.
Aladejobi said if the Federal Government could put the NSW in place, Nigerians who patronised other African ports would return to the ports by the time the land borders were reopened.
The Vice President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Dr Kayode Farinto, said corruption is negatively affecting the cost of cargo at the ports.
Farinto noted: “If you look at the percentage of the under-the-table cuts,which is about 30 per cent of the port charges, and compare it to the 55 per cent of arbitrary charges being collected by government agencies and private operators, then you will agree with our submission.”
He explained that the 30 per cent of illegal charges could not be traced, but that the 55 per cent traceable arbitrary payment should be dealt with to reduce the cost of clearance.
Also, the Chairman of the Port Consultative Council (PCC), Otunba Kunle Folarin, also explained that the port charges were determined by  by operators.
He said cargo operations take about 60 per cent of the port cost, adding that these charges were not within the control of the NPA.
“The 60 per cent of port charges includes stevedoring cost, haulage cost, terminal handling charges, shipping companies handling charges and trucking are cargo related,’’ he said.
Folarin added that the only thing that is domiciled with the ports is harbour dues, which include pilotage and towage, which the government has control over.
He said NPA should not be blamed for the shipping firms charging a higher freight on cargoes coming to the country, noting that firms were key players in every port environment just as other private operators like the haulage drivers.
Findings revealed that revealed that non- compliance to smooth trade facilitation was increase in the level of discrepancies in importers’ names and other information provided on clearance documents.
It has been revealed that the non-compliance to smooth trade facilitation was observed that wrong classification of cargoes, transfer of value, concement and false declaration have continued to flourish at the ports.
The Comptroller- General of Customs (CGS) Col. Hammed Ali (rtd) had lamented the increase in discrepancies in information provided by importers on clearing documents.
The  CGS, who spoke at an interactive evening session of the 45th Annual General Meeting  of  the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) in Lagos, noted that importers were cheating the Federal Government.
He noted that there was high rate of falsified documents at the ports, such as under invoicing and false declaration, saying that clearing agents.
“I can tell you categorically that less than five per cent of our importers processed their documents genuinely at the ports. We have discovered this through our investigations.
“Out of 100 containers imported, there are hardly 10 containers with genuine declaration. For any one Indian that is there, he must be supported by 10 Nigerians because we do not love our own country. You cannot go to their country and do this, but in Nigeria, anybody can come and cheat us.”

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