The League of Maritime Editors and Publishers in an Annual General Meeting and Lecture set another agenda for the federal government
By Ovie Edomi
For two days the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria, ASCON, was the center of attraction as captains of industry focused their attention on the outcome of the League of Maritime Editors and Publishers’ AGM where a new Executive led by Timothy Okorocha emerged as President, Eddie Iroha, vice President, Felix Kumuyi as Secretary and Francis Ugwoke as Spoke person/ PRO amongst others.
Guest Speaker, Mr. Charles Okorefe
was also the cynosure of attention as he delivered the lead paper with the title “The Role of Technology in Trade Facilitation and Smuggling Suppression”
According to Okorefe, the loose application of the country’s fiscal and monetary instruments has given rise to undue economic protectionism and the penchant for prohibition of imported items despite the local alternatives not been produced in sufficient quantities.
In his view, smart ports operations in Nigeria is not adequately supported by modern technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Visual Perception, Robotics, Driverless Cranes/Trucks,
Blockchain Technology, Internet of Things (IoT) etc; all of which raise the efficiencies of ports trade, ease of doing business and anti-smuggling tracking devices.
In addition, Okorefe identified more ICT windows useful for raising the bar in trade facilitation and suppression of smuggling.These include Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) which automatically deploys business electronic softwares such as Customs Duty payment receipts from deposit money banks (DMB) to Customs accounts (E-Payment), Shipping Company/Terminal debit notes, Delivery Orders (DOs) and TDOs to Customs Licensed Brokers, Transporters amongst others.
At the end of the AGM cum Lecture, stakeholders resolved that the federal government, transportation ministry and its agencies should recommit to sincere applications of technological innovations to enhance connectivity and smart ports operations, and to generate requisite data that assist operators to make informed operational decisions across all spectrums of the industry, both on-shore and on board ships.
It was also agreed that government and its agencies should strive to eliminate manual and analogue processes and seek to integrate communication links between private operators such as ship agents, terminal operators, customs licensed Brokers, the Deposit Money Banks and government agencies such as the CBN, Customs, SON, NAFDAC, NDLEA, the Police, Plant Quarantine and other relevant government agencies online real-time vide Single Window Portal.
Stakeholders further resolved that given the country’s knack for hitech borrowing, our government should adopt the Rotterdam which for example can registers with clear precision, the license plates of incoming and outgoing vehicles through cameras, accurately monitor trucks and other carrying units at the entrances of each terminal in order to control, plan and order the internal traffic at the nation’s port.
Furthermore, it was further resolved that to achieve real time trade facilitation in our ports, government should enforce a coordinated, integrated information and communication systems between private operators and government agencies under a Single Window System.
To take the issue of suppression of smuggling a notch higher, it was recommended that government should introduce deployment of drones in the port corridors to enhance monitoring and tracking while the Nigeria Customs Service should invest in body cameras, which footages will also be very useful evidence in monitoring and tracking. To deal decisively with the challenge of customs multiple checks and it’s attendant negative effects, it was recommended that all special units of Customs such as Federal Operations, Strike Force, Customs Intelligence units should should be allowed to participate in cargo examination so the release will be seamless.
It was also resolved that in other to eliminate unwarranted delays costly to economic growth, the federal government should consider the collapse the Federal Ministry of Transport and the establishment of a stand alone Ministry of Maritime Transport, and the Ministry of Land Transport, to cater for rail and roads.
Participants described the lecture theme as apt considering the importance of technology in trade facilitation and suppression of smuggling.
Meanwhile, the NIgeria Shippers’ Council boss,
Emmanuel Jime, who was represented by Nanbel Nanle urged stakeholders to move away from seaports and embrace dry ports, while the Director General of NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh, thanked Journalists for their commitment to the maritime sector and NIgeria in general.
This may be why Chairman of the Ports Consultative Council,
Otunba Kunle Folarin noted that the AGM and annual Lecture has revealed that NIgeria of today needs technology to drive every aspects of the policy of government as well as identified concrete measures that need to reduce human contact in cargo traffic.
No doubt, the Customs Area Controllers of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU Zone A Ikeja and Seme Area Command, Hussein Ejibunu and Mohammed Jibo, who were represented by Deputy Comptroller Isiaku B.A and Superintendent of Customs Barde, respectively amongst other stakeholders could not agree less.