BY OKEY IBEKE
AS the customs prepared to take full control of destination inspection in Nigeria, it put in place the following as the pillars that will hold the NCS destination inspection:
NIGERIAN CUSTOMS SERVICE RULING CENTRE – A WORLD CLASS ICT PLATFORM
In preparation for the eventual take over of destination inspection, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) trained its personnel at the facility of Smith Detection in France, makers of the scanner machine in use in Nigeria by the service providers. The agency also put in place world-class ICT infrastructure which developed a software that would be generating Pre-Arrival Assessment Reports (PAAR) six hours before the arrival of the cargo if documents filed by importers confirm with all fiscal policies and guidelines, as against the six days it was taking the service providers to generate the RAR that was in use for the processing cargo clearance in the country.
The beauty of all these according to Customs management is that all are being done with all Nigeria manpower.
According to the NCS, PAAR was developed in 2012 as part of measures to respond adequately to the increasing volume of trade with limited human and financial resources.
Under the arrangement, the PAAR application system will be complimented by a Ruling Centre located at the NCS Headquarters, Abuja with trained officers and operators-assuming the following roles:
• administrators of NCS-PAAR application scrutiny-officers;
• final document verification officers;
• valuation and classification officers, and;
• risk profile officers.
Besides, commercial banks are scheduled to work with their own system based rules.
To demonstrate its readiness for full takeover from the Service Providers the Service also unveiled its gigantic information technology (ICT) platform, named Nigerian Trade Portal, which will make completion of processing of imported cargoes documents six hours before arrival seamless for importers provided they make genuine declaration and they had resolved all issues they may have with other agencies of government involved one way or the other in the cargoes clearance (NAFDAC, SON etc).
The infrastructure is located at the ‘Customs Ruling Centre’ (at headquarters of the agency in Abuja), and it is a multi-million dollar ICT infrastructure whose software according the Comptroller – General Customs Dikko Inde Abdullahi, was developed by indigenous ICT experts drawn from over 900 ICT graduates employed by the agency from Nigerian universities and abroad.
The single window system
In trade facilitation, the single window concept is a facility that wants parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardized information and documents with a single entry point to fulfill all import, export and transit-related regulatory requirements. This pre-supposes that if information is electronic, individual data elements should be submitted only once.
The benefits of a single window system include, allowing traders to fulfill all import, export and transit-related regulatory requirements through one interface, simplifying and facilitating to a large extent, the process of providing and sharing necessary information to traders and the authorities.
The system will also ensure rapid and accurate payment of required duty and other charges to government authorities and agencies, provide up-to-date information on tariff rate/classification and other related procedural requirements, make service providers to be accurate, faster and accountable, drastically reduce cost of trade and services and boost economy.
Nigeria Trade Hub and Customs Modernization
As part of the efforts of the customs administration towards facilitating trade, the Service also launched its brainchild, the Nigeria Trade Hub and the Nigeria Import, Export and Transit Process Manual. The portal which was developed with the cooperation of other government regulatory agencies and some private sector players seeks to provide invaluable guide and reliable reference tools to the global trading community that wish to do business in or with Nigeria.
At the launching ceremony in Abuja, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Abdullahi Dikko, acknowledged that all over the world, Customs administrations are coming under intense pressure to facilitate legitimate cross-border trade.
According to the CGC, the portal boasts of the following features: 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.
Shortly before the take over, the Service also embarked on enlightenment campaigns to educate stakeholders on the new dispensation. It also organized workshops and trainings for Customs agents in order to fit into the system.