NCS’ bold steps to ease trade operations in Nigeria

With its poverty rate hitting 38.9 per cent in 2023, Nigeria has continued to battle several social and economic problems, throwing up an avalanche of concerns for both the leaders and the populace.

The populous African nation has continued to battle food shortages, poor infrastructure, unemployment, while striving to make quality health care and education affordable.

It is also confronted with security challenges ranging from banditry, militancy, separatist agitations, among others.

With these challenges getting more serious by the day, experts say that the prospects of overcoming them may not be so bright with the nation’s monolithic economy that depends substantially on oil.

They say that short and long term measures must be initiated if the nation is to be salvaged from its many woes.

One recurrent suggestion has been the need to diversify the economy, especially with the global upsurge in energy transition, which is expected to reduce the demand for oil.

Relying on the oil sector, in spite of the t
ransition, will diminish the nation’s revenue base, the experts have always pointed out, while emphasising the need to build resilience to navigate the situation by leveraging opportunities in other sectors.

Sectors that provide such revenue options include agriculture, mining, manufacturing, among others.

In line with this, President Bola Tinubu’s administration has continued to focus on reforming the economy to deliver sustained growth that would have multiplier effects on all aspects of life.

To this effect, government has continued to develop and implement policies and initiatives designed to generate revenue from the non-oil sector.

One of such policies focuses on trade reforms.

The idea is encapsulated in the Trade Policy Of Nigeria(TPN) 2023 to 2027, designed to promote trade as a tool for economic growth and development. It aims at using trade as a catalyst to develop a diversified and competitive economy.

While it hinges on government’s commitment to an open and transparent trade policy, one of
its key objectives is to address constraints limiting Nigeria’s potential to participate effectively in international trade.

As part of efforts to address these constraints, the Nigeria Customs Service(NCS), in 2022 embarked on a journey to reposition and ease trade operations in the country through its Trade Modernisation Project(TMP), which has three phases.

The project is a 20-year concession agreement signed on May 27, 2023 between the Federal Government of Nigeria, represented by the NCS Board, and the Trade Modernisation Project Ltd.

The TMP is the automation of the business processes of the NCS. It seeks to simplify and enhance the experience of stakeholders in the trade value chain.

It is aimed at making it easy to obtain export and import clearances. It will also ease the payment of duties and the release of goods.

Shortly put, it is a long term rescue plan aimed at ensuring predictable and transparent processes and procedures for imports, exports and transit trade.

According to the General Man
ager of the Concessionaire, Mr Ahmed Ogunshola, the project creates the basis for improving NCS’ services which include improving revenue generation, facilitating trade development and minimising corruption in trade facilitation.

The project is aimed at automating trade operation processes using a software described as the Unified Customs Management System(UCMS), to be deployed by NCS, which would soon be inaugurated by the Federal Government.

The UCMS is the core of the operational activities and underpins the decision chain and command of goods clearance for release, in line with the requisite taxes and waivers of the Federal Government.

The automation aims to address leakages in the revenue collection of customs duties and includes Electronic Cargo Tracking System.

This system gives traders access through the UCM to comprehensively monitor their transactions from the beginning of the process until the delivery of their goods, and act appropriate where they experience hiccups.

The system also facilitat
es Electronic Port System, Logistics Monitoring System, Mobile Enforcement System and Intelligent Gate System.

In addition to providing further ease of cross border trading, its major advantage is the significant long-term impact it would have on the social and economic development of the country.

At the end of the 20 year period, the project is expected to generate in excess, 250 billion dollars as revenue for Nigeria.

This is because automating the process helps to increase revenue collection due to improved trading experiences, which would increase trading frequency and, therefore, revenue from chargeable duties.

While Nigeria gets to use the revenue to fund its infrastructure development, create jobs, address its security challenges, it would also develop other non-oil sectors to ensure sustainable development.

On the current stage of the development of software to be deployed to drive the modernisation process, the Head of the Business Section of the Project, Usman Abba, a Chief Supritendent of Cust
oms, said that all internal sytems had been completed, and final touches were being made on stakeholders’ integration.

While this is the first phase of the process spanning year one to six, with two more phases to go, it is expected that at a stage, all systems must be deployed to hardware, software and technology services.

The reform, through the project, is expected to streamline customs processes, reduce delays and cut down on corruption. As a result, businesses can operate more efficiently, and government can collect more accurate and timely revenues from trade activities.

Additionally, aligning trade policies with international standards can attract more global partners and increase Nigeria’s share of global trade.

As the implementation of this project gets to its peak, excited analysts say that Nigeria can look forward to a more dynamic, efficient and profitable trade sector, driving sustainable economic growth and prosperity.

Source: News Agency of Nigeria