Three key stakeholders in the maritime industry, Aare Hakeem Olanreaju, Prince Olayiwola Shittu and Dr. Eugene Nweke have held what they called “strategic professional meeting” in Nigeria’s commercial centre, Lagos with a view to institutionalize reforms in the cargo clearance chain.
While Olanrewaju is former Chairman, Governing Council, Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), Shittu is the immediate past National President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA).
In the same vein, Nweke is the former National President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), the umbrella body of freight forwarders in the country.
According to them, the consultative meeting was prompted by noticeable professional absence in the emerging trends and at the ongoing global discourse by the comity of global freight forwarding nations.
Among other things, they took a critical look at the evolution of smart borders concept which is in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations (UN) Agenda 2030.
A communiqué issued at the end of the meeting and made available to Maritime Bits noted that the smart border concept makes room for Customs to ensure timely delivery of raw materials to industries; reduce unfair business competition; as well as open opportunities for all business interests to access raw materials.
Others include the creation of a transparent, conducive and predictable condition for trade and passengers; facilitate legitimate trade that will in turn contribute positively to economic growth, and boosting job creation.
Continuing, the communiqué which was authorized for release by Nweke, said: “In this direction, the meeting resolves to carry out a robust review on the level of compliance to the SGDs from the Nigeria freight forwarders perspective, and document same for a global representation. Equally, the meeting took a holistic review of the present clearance process and procedures within the Customs ports, with deep reservation even though, commending its efforts at reinstalling mobile scanner machines at some ports. It therefore, resolves to further its professional consult and engagement”
According to it, the consultative meeting narrows its reflection for the day on global concerns such as today freight forwarding practices revolves around a growing e-commerce logistics solution where information communication technology drives the international trade security and value adding supply chain. Both the World Trade Organization (WTO) and World Customs Organization (WCO) now focus attention on exploring the integrated e-commerce logistics solutions.
In the same vein, it calls for a revisit of the current annual growth rate in the thriving Business to Customer (B2C), Business to Business (B2B) and the Producer to Consumer (P2C) just as it noted the grappling challenges inherent in this increasingly demanding innovative logistics solutions.
It posited that there will be need to chart a course towards the growing need to choose the right kind of Customs procedures that will open new potential for improvement and advancement of the evolving new markets concepts; reconsider the update and possibly outcome of the WTO treatise consideration to e-commerce, especially as it relates to the ‘plurilaterals’ discussion following the proposals submitted by the ‘plurilaterals’ members, among the developing countries, including Nigeria, expressing their discomfort with the US model of digital trade rules centered around free data flows; expresses serious concerns on the e-commerce moratorium. Though the WTO Customs duties e-commerce moratorium has been halted since 2019, the increasingly globalization disruption points to the fact that, trading goods electronically may not be easy to abate. As such this moratorium if continued may mean a continuation of zero customs duties on goods which are traded via electronic transmissions. Above all there will be tariff revenue losses as well as the loss of policy space for those who may try to support their domestic industries in electronic traded goods.
According to the communiqué, the stakeholders resolved to further its strategic consultative goals with the management team of the Nigeria Customs Service, (NCS) as it stands without mincing words the Customs cannot boast of deploying requisite energy in this aspect of trade model and inherent revenue generation thereof. The meeting weighs the options to discuss and kick start a domestication process for the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) newly introduced two globally approved and applicable imports clearance documents across the WTO signatory countries.
Continuing, the maritime experts resolved to stay action for a while with the hope that the man-made crisis in the CRFFN will fizzle out soonest so as to prompt the essence and effectiveness of the freight forwarders consultative forum obligations.
They also reviewed the available statistics on cargo trans-shipment operations within the Sub-region, pointing out that available statistics prompted the meeting to reconsider the ideal workings of an efficient port.
These include facilitation of movement in any given port raft such as boats, ships and barges are required to move both people and goods but to facilitate trade, the port has to provide the docks, floats, piers, gangway, tugboat, and other conveniences that will make the ships to be properly engaged and utilized and as well accommodate and maintain seamless flow of watercraft traffic.
They noted that with the increase in the volume of world trading activities on the sea (imports and exports), it is considerate to posit that the size and efficiency of a port is an indication of how successful the surrounding regions are as such ports are vital components of shipping business.
“Unfortunately, with noticeable port congestion and traffic gridlock in and along our port corridor, the economic benefits of port concession of 1996 seem to be an uphill task and the core objective almost a mirage. This situation has thrown up new industry sections like barge operations, increasingly bonded terminal operational activities. Unfortunately regulatory function is not promptly coordinated, leading to the high costs of shipping and port business in Nigeria, unfriendly and uncompetitive.
“It noted that with the commissioning of the first deep seaport, even as it sets for full operations, it has become necessary and also advisable that the crop of brown ports managed by private operators has to square up for competition to avoid serving as a mere feeder ports. In this regards, the on-going negotiations for port concession renewals, should consider such critical industry components ranging from the right definitions of operational activities and phrases and operational rebates and lax tax regime.
“The meeting resolved to further its consultation with the concerned agencies with the aim to genuinely brainstorm on why port must been seen as an efficient organization at all time to appreciate the essence of the global integration of performance indicators for port efficiency in our ports system. To consider other viable requirements for an efficient port; set an achievable goals towards achieving port efficiency performance indicators and to boost port competitiveness”, the communiqué added.
According to it, the maritime experts purposely choose not to review nor dwell on the happenings with the CRFFN, trusting that since the Minister of Transportation has resolve to wade into the crisis and by extension listen to the myriads of operational challenges that has bedeviled the practitioners as posited by the various freight forwarding interests groups via summits/conferences communiqué.
It maintained that the strategic consultative meeting was premised on addressing and bringing professional concerns to the front burner, especially in the face of global cum national representations and defined industry involvements.
Participants of the meeting, resolved to extend its consultative engagements to well-meaning professional colleagues and other industry stakeholders across the country.