By Ifeyinwa Obi

THE Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs, Dikko Inde Abdullahi has said that the capacity building project would help the country achieve a new regime of trade facilitation in a corrupt free environment.

The NCS boss who stated this at the launch of the Nigerian Trade portal said that the use of the portal would help to improve Nigeria’s ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index.

According to him, the new Portal and the accompanying Process Manual would serve as invaluable guide and reliable reference tools for traders wishing to conduct legitimate and compliant businesses in Nigeria.

Global trading community
He said: “We have benefitted immensely from the inputs made by our stakeholders. Now we have a world class portal which we are putting up at the disposal of the global trading community, particularly those doing business with Nigeria.”

Classification Tool, Currency Converter, Tax Simulator, Web link to other Government Agencies, 24/7 Online Accessibility, Availability on Mobile Apps and Interactive and intuitive Features, according to him are the major features of the new portal.

The CGC noted that for a long time the trading Community had yearned for information to promote transparency in the conduct of business.

He added that with the development of the hub, information was now placed at their disposal in a fast, convenient and cost-effective manner.

Single Window Environment:
Meantime, the Minister of Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga, has said that the launch of the information phase of the Nigerian trade hub would facilitate the next phase, which allows for end-to-end transaction in a Single Window Environment.

The Minister said at the launch of the portal that Nigeria’s business environment has often been described as poor, unfriendly, uncompetitive and uncoordinated. He noted that the contribution of customs processes, procedures and port clearing system to this negative image was quite significant.

Aganga said:“However, given the major role that trade plays in the attainment of the Transformation Agenda, the “Nigeria Trade Hub ” project could not have come at a better time. The ‘Nigeria Trade Hub‘ is a veritable vehicle needed to drive our trade cycle to the next level of development.

Facilitation of framework for improved business climate:
“It meets the trade facilitation framework for improved business climate as articulated in the blue print of Vision 2020.”

According to the Minister, the benefits of the first phase of the programme will include the following:

*Reduction in human touch points, meaning that there will be fewer instances of human intervention within the process.

*Transparency and predictable environment for the trading community

*Cost and Time efficiency: Reduction in the time and cost of doing business in Nigeria, which will help Nigeria’s ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings among others.

He said that the international trade facilitation was all about simplifying import and export regulations and procedures to make trading more predictable and sustainable.

The Single Window, he said was a useful tool for optimizing the fulfillment of these objectives, adding that it would provide the platform for reliable data collection, collation, retrieval and dissemination.

Reduction in processing times:The Minister further said it would improve collaboration among the different operating entities (public and private) which can now exchange data electronically; and would reduce trade-related costs through on-line processing of information and will shorten processing times.

He said: “The application of the single window would help in the modernization and simplification of the processes and procedures of international trade (imports and exports) in Nigeria.

“An efficient application will help in creating a competitive and enabling environment for cross-border trade in terms of reducing processing times and costs; hence enhancing regional economic integration. As a modular system, the single window can accommodate different modules under a single platform for all the participants in the entire trade cycle, including the Nigerian Customs Service.”

The Minister noted with optimism that the Nigerian Trade Hub will provide the required solution to problems and challenges experienced by the trading community in the past.

To sanitize the Nigerian international trade environment:

He commended the Nigerian Customs Service and its leadership for the foresight and the resources committed to the introduction of the platform that will sanitize the Nigerian international trade environment and bring us at par with the most efficient and comparative economies in the world such as Singapore, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Mozambique, Panama, Qatar and Saudi Arabia where the single window systems have been successfully introduced.

The launch of the Trade Hub, according to the Minister was a demonstration of the openness and readiness to make the project a success.

“The manual is rich, educative and provide clear guidance not only on the operations of the Single Window, but more importantly, it serves as a reference material to national and international players trading with Nigeria and those contemplating to do so in the near future” he explained.

For the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Nigeria Trade Hub was similarly a useful step towards improving trade facilitation in our economy.

Reduce delays associated with cross-border trade:

She said:“This initiative will create the right environment to simplify, harmonize and standardize procedures for cross border transactions in Nigeria. As a result it will further reduce delays associated with cross-border trade and enable us attain our goal of 48-hour cargo clearance time at our ports.”

Regulatory information:
For both importers and exporters, she informed that the Nigeria Trade Hub provides an integrated environment where appropriate services may be obtained.

This system, she added would greatly facilitate commerce across our borders, and reduce costs for businesses operating in Nigeria.

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