Nigeria House of Representatives has asked the Central Bank of Nigeria and the management of the Nigeria Customs Service to fast-track the automation of export processing at the port to avoid delays which has resulted in huge loss of revenue to the government.
Chairman of the Technical Committee of the House Committee on Customs and Excise, Hon. Leke Abejide, who made the call when he led members of the committee on an oversight to the Area 2 Customs Command at Onne, Rivers State, said the lack of automation of the process had slowed down export activities.
Officials of the shipping lines at the Onne Port had complained to the committee that the manual way of handling the NXP form (Nigeria Export Proceed form which gives authorised export dealers information on goods being exported) was slowing down export process at the port as the process of obtaining approval from the Central Bank of Nigeria was yet to be automated.
But the Customs Area Controller, Onne Customs Command, Auwal Mohammed said the automation has started, adding that what was left was to stabilise the process to make it effective and efficient.
Abejide, who was displeased with the information which he described as mechanical, said there was the need for the CBN and the Customs management to complete the automation system to remove the bottlenecks slowing down export.
“Nigerian export is mainly agro and seasonal and as they are working, the season is going. I want to suggest that instead of writing to CBN for approval, write to the CAC, copy the House Committee.
“We have a motion on this issue before the House. Those operating from Lagos also have this same challenge. We cannot continue to wait for our naira to devalue. Export brings revenue into the economy, so why don’t we encourage the export. Let the system be healthy pending the time the connectivity is stabilised.’’
“I was told that it takes the CBN longer time to reply the shipping companies, while keeping the containers waiting. We cannot continue like that. We are still in January and you are talking about March.
How many export are we going to lose before that time.
“The way they are going about it looks mechanical to me. There is no trade facilitation there. We are going to write to CBN officially and find a way round this so that customers are not kept waiting,” Abejide said.
An official of Marsk Shipping line, Mrs Chibuzor Ejiofor, had told the committee that the process of obtaining approval from the CBN was slowing down their export operation, adding that the Onne command still does not have access to the CBN export portal.
She said “because of accreditation process from CBN, we have to do manual evaluation under the NSP. We have to write to the CBN from NXP number and wait for their approval before we can ship those containers.
“Probably if the Customs controller here has access to the portal, it will be faster for them to give approval. As a result of this, we are losing containers to the other ports. Customers have to wait for long for this approval and the CBN sometimes delay in giving this approval”.
She explained that “collection on export has to be approved through a portal handled by the CBN in collaboration with all stakeholders and the Onne command does not have access and so, they cannot validate because they cannot get into the system and we have a penalty on our head if we load a container that is not validated by the CBN.
“The only way we can get containers moving is to write to CBN informing them of containers ready for export with their LSP numbers, asking for approval. It is only when they approve that we can load. I don’t know how other ports are doing it, but that is what is happening here”.
The Customs Area Controller incharge of Onne, Auwal Mohammed however said the issue was not lack of access to the portal, but stabilizing the system for smooth operation, adding that while the system in TinCan Island and Apapa ports have already been stabilized, the CBN and the management of the Customs Service were already working on stabilizing the system on Onne.
He said “the CBN, in conjunction with the Nigeria Customs Service is trying to formalize the NXP. But right now, we are still doing things manually for export. But between now and March, things will stabilize and the issue of NXP will be fully automated. But that is not directly affecting our volume of export.
“The CBN introduced this automation to have a central connectivity. So, they are coming port by port and we have worked hard on this for the past three months, trying to stabilize this connectivity.
“It is not that we don’t have access to it. But it is a stable access that we are lacking here. That of TinCan has been done, that of Apapa has been done and by the grace of God, our own will be done between now and the end of March.
“We are complaining of manual way of doing it because the volume of export is increasing. The electronic automation is just to make it faster and more effective. The stakeholders should bear with us because interconnectivity is not something that you do in a hurry. They have to establish it and then stabilize it.”