By Steve Agbota [email protected] 08033302331
In May 2017, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo signed the executive order on the Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria. It contains far-reaching initiatives to be implemented by MDAs to ensure easier access to information, processes and documentation, as well as promote efficiency in public service delivery.
The executive order had five major planks namely: transparency, one government, default approvals, entry experience of travelers and vsitors and ports operations.
The initiative, which cut across airports, seaports and land, was to make Nigeria’s business environment competitive, deliver efficient services in a safe, secure and customer friendly environment and to attract foreign direct investment in order to boost the nation’s image and poor ranking by World Bank on the ease of doing business index.
Conversly, the executive order on the ease of doing business states that all agencies physically present at the nation’s ports are to harmonise their operations into one single interface station in one location in the port and implement by a single joint task force at all times.
Then, Osinbajo directed that the Apapa Port should commence 24-hour operations, there should be export terminal in each port dedicated to export of agricultural products, no bribing and no touting policy, be it air, land and seaports.
Four years after the Presidency issued the Presidential Order on the Ease of Doing Business, the initiative has failed to actualise its main objectives as Nigerian importers have continued to leave Nigerian ports to patronise ports of neighbouring countries.
Stakeholders said that investors have shifted to neighbouring countries like Togo and Benin Republic where the business is booming due to the deplorable condition of Apapa roads, lack of 24-hour cargo clearance and procedure as well as transporting goods from the port to its point of destination.
Ironically, Nigeria is the only country that is not practising 24-hour port operations in the world. The nation’s ports are yet to be harmonised, there is issue of touting while bribery and corruption among port officials is still the order of the day.
This often creates bureaucratic bottlenecks and incessant delays, that facilitate illegal charges and undermining of the standard operating procedures.
However, stakeholders blamed heads of agencies at the ports particularly the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) for frustrating the initiative.
Speaking with Daily Sun, Vice President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents(ANLCA), Mr. Kayode Farinto, said that the executive order works and effective at the airport, courtesy of every stakeholders and the agencies at the airport.
According to him, but executive order is a total and collosal failure at the port due to lack of attidunal change and the roles of all security agencies particularly the Nigeria Customs Service.
“I have said it time without numbers that there is nothing like executive order at the Nigerian ports. What we have is that everybody behaves the way he or she likes. So the executive order is a total failure at the seaports,” he said.
He said that Nigeria is far from operating 24 hours cargo clearance, which is being done in every ports in the world, adding that government itself has not played the role to make the 24-hour cargo clearance achievable.
“As I talk to you now, the harmonisation of the port has not well done. The security of lives and properties is not guaranteed. So there is nothing like 24-hour service delivery in the port,” he declared.
Meanwhile, former member Presidential Task Force for the Reform of Nigeria Customs and member, Presidential Committee on Port Problems, Lucky Amiwero, said the problem is that it is not about giving order, it is about how to implement it effectively.
“When you say ease of doing, there is a World Bank ranking and ease of doing business has a component, which is trading across border. Trading across border has three components, which Nigeria has failed to possess and that three components have to do with consistency, ability and transparency. Those three things that are not in our system.
“If you look at our ranking, we are nowhere. So you don’t have ease of doing business in Nigerian ports. There is no assessment and nothing is being done. Today, Nigeria is running one of the most expensive ports in the world even though the port is not co-ordinated. Many of Nigerian partners within the neighbouring states like Cotonou, Ghana, Togo, Cameroun and Cote D’ivoire, these five ports have taking a shunk of the Nigerian bound cargo,” he added.
He revealed that importers are moving out of the country completely because of the nation’s port system that is not co-ordinated, saying that Nigerian port procedure is faulty and its processes are cumbersome.
“We have Customs that is doing what it likes. We have NAFDAC that is working on its own. We have other agencies and terminal operators that are not co-ordinated. So you have a system that is overlapping each other and you can’t have such a system and you say you have executive order.
“The executive order has collapsed completely. I was fortunate, the presidency call and said I should put up a write-up on the assessment. We did that and send to presidency but up till now, we didn’t hear anything from them. There is no assessment on the executive order on the ease of doing business at the port because it is a complete and total failure,” he said.
He explained that one of the trading across the border is a procedure and how to minimise cost.
On the port conventions, which has to do with international trade and maritime trade, he explained that Nigeria has Kyoto Convention, which talks about harmonisation and specification and FAL convention, which talks about how one can minimise and facilitate maritime transit.
“You also have the WCO convention, talking about the trade framework. All these things are talking about how you simplify, minimise and facilitate your trade. Can you do that in this country? Our trans level is zero because you can’t compare with Ghana, Togo, Cotonou or Cameroun. They are all taking our cargo and our transshipment as well,” he decried.
He lamented that Nigeria system is so archaic that there are no scanners in the ports, adding that no nation runs a port without scanners.
“NCS do not have dispute resolution mechanism, which is the core component of international trade, If you don’t have that you cannot operate as a country.
“Nigeria Customs needs to be reformed to be transparent and have veritable port system in the country, if they are not reformed, the port system can never work,” he added.