from Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos
One year after the Presidential Committee on Ease of Doing Business directed the implementation of the executive order in the maritime sector, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) says the port sector has made the least progress among all sectors of the Nigerian economy.
In a lecture titled, “The Gains and Challenges of Presidential Order on Ease of Doing Business in the Nigerian Maritime Sector One Year After,” during the Primetime Reporters’ second annual lecture and awards in Lagos, the LCCI Director-General, Mr. Muda Yusuf Yusuf, described the port area as the most difficult of all sectors.
According to him, a number of these ease of doing business requirements are not respected (at the ports) and the argument of the customs is that they are worried about security, that security issues cannot be traded on the altar of ease of doing business.
“These things are not mutually exclusive. If you do your work properly, you can do it in a way that it cannot cause panic or create problems for businesses. Then, there is the talk about 24-hour operations at the Apapa port. Today, is that happening? Of course!
“May be for some good reasons there are issues about security, like when you begin to move cargo overnight. Customs will not be there 24 hours, so the issue of 24 hours does not even arise as long as the central players are not there.
“Then, we have the issue of physical examination of cargo. This is an age of technology. All over the world, people use technology to simplify processes but we are not there at all, so scanners wouldn’t work.
“People will use technology to simplify the process; part of the problems we have is that we are not using technology. The single window thing is technology-driven but again, if you have a system where some vested interest is embedded, unless you have very strong political will, it is very difficult to change such system.”
Lawal regretted that in spite of the huge yearly revenue from the ports, government could not procure functional scanners at all the ports to make things easy for everybody. He further lamented government’s misplaced consideration of customs revenue profile as a stronger performance indicator than its trade facilitation.
Therefore, “all that customs care about is meeting the revenue target and in the process they create all sorts of problems for people in the business, including the way they do valuation and classification, while totally neglecting the trade facilitation responsibility.
“I believe they (government) should incorporate the trade facilitation responsibility as a major performance indicator, not just revenue, because in the process of driving for revenue, all sorts of things happen, and as long as they achieve the target, nobody cares what happens to the rest of the economy.
“Sometimes, the damage to the economy is much more than the revenue they realize. So, we need to move the target from just setting target but also look at the other ease of doing business parameters to measure the performance of the Nigeria Customs Service.”