World Bank, Trade Ministry partner Shippers’ Council to tackle multiple-inspection border posts

By Seun Ibiyemi

The Ministry of Trade and Investment, alongside the World Bank and the Nigeria Shippers’ Council (NSC), have identified simplified trade processes and procedures at the seaports, across states and regional borders as imperative for economic growth.

Speaking recently when the Enhanced National Trade Facilitation Committee and representatives of the World Bank visited the NSC in Lagos, the Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr. Doris Udoka-Anite explained that the benefits of achieving harmonised, standardised and simplified trading processes and procedures are immense and cannot be overstated.

Udoka-Anite, who was represented by an Assistant Director in the Office of the Minister, Dr. Brenda Max-Nduagube, noted that trade facilitation has been a focal point of discussions at national, regional and international levels.

“This is ever more important to small and medium-scale enterprises where the NTFC helps create a more business-friendly environment for SMEs venturing into global markets. This translates to increased competitiveness, growth potential and a more level playfield,” the Minister stated.

She commended the World Bank for its steadfast support and collaboration, which have been instrumental in advancing Nigeria’s national trade facilitation goals while positioning her as a leading trade hub in the region.

She further commended the members of the Enhanced National Trade Facilitation Committee for tirelessly fostering collaboration and synergy across Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), the private sector and civil society, thereby paving the way for a more integrated and efficient trade facilitation framework.

She explained that the World Bank team was visiting to fully understand the daily operations, inspection processes and trade bottlenecks, and identify policy options to make trade seamless for the Nigerian government.

On their part, leader of the World Bank team, Aleksandar Stojanov, stated that, “We look at ways of supporting the government in terms of improving competitiveness and domestic value addition so that Nigeria can take full advantage of regional trade agreements such as AfCFTA (African Continental Free Trade Agreement), as well as the international agreements that they have.”

According to Aleksandar Stojanov, the World Bank team was on a fact-finding mission that would guide their dialogue on trade, reduce dwell time, and improve trade processes.

“Today, the World Bank has state-level trade operations, which has an inter-state trade indicator for seamless movement of goods across states in Nigeria and export promotion at the state level.

“There is one operation in the pipeline that will support trade facilitation, which has a linked indicator, that is on reducing inspections at the border and improving trade facilitation overall to the authorised economic operator system, which has been launched with the Nigeria Customs Service,” Aleksandar Stojanov stated.

On his part, the NSC Executive Secretary, Mr. Pius Akutah, noted that the Council is one of the major stakeholders in trade facilitation in Nigeria, and West Africa at large, as a member of the ECOWAS Trade Facilitation Committee, among others.

“We work with transport and cross-border infrastructures to reduce transport bottlenecks and facilitate trade, both in local and international markets.

“To consolidate this effort and that of the international agencies, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council has embarked on trade facilitation tools like the inland dry ports, and complaint centres across the country, in order to facilitate trade in the hinterlands and decongest the seaports, especially Apapa and Tin Can Island,” the NSC boss explained.

He disclosed that while on its mandatory activities, the NSC discovered that many traders along the border corridors perform their activities informally, with many small scale businesses carrying out their trades very well.

“We intend to do everything within our mandate to ensure that we formalise these activities. This has necessitated the Council’s collaboration with the Nigeria Customs Service and other stakeholders to establish Border Information Centres at the borders,” Barrister Pius Akutah added.

He assured the World Bank, Ministry of Trade and Investment and the National Trade Facilitation Committee of the NSC’s continued partnership to improve trade and other related activities.

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