Exploring the Benefits of Customs Scanning And E-Tracking System in Nigeria
Manual procedures, operational inefficiency, costly delays, false declarations, inaccurate assessments, multiple cargo examinations, loss of integrity are some of the many challenges militating against seamless movement of cargo in and out of Nigeria. In view of these multi-faceted challenges, several ideas have been articulated but the unwillingness to adopt and implement these ideas for a lasting solution to these problems has also been part of the problem.
A major step towards a lasting solution is being taken by the Nigeria Customs Service and this was affirmed last November during the Nigeria Customs’ College Lecture Series held at the Nigeria Customs Command and Staff College in Gwagwalada, Abuja, Nigeria, where it announced its intention to establish an e-cargo tracking system in 2019. According to the Customs boss, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), this will be done in collaboration with the Ugandan Revenue Authority, as soon as funds are released for it and the contract with the prospective IT Consultant is signed. While this is very commendable, the overall hope is that it should not go the way of other highly recommended platforms before it. However, for this new idea to see the light of day, the following fundamental issues must be keenly considered:
- Definite timeline for its take-off in 2019
- A single IT interface, which will be effectively managed by a competent IT provider
- The firm commitment of the Nigerian Customs towards ensuring that the system works without prejudice or bureaucratic hitches. The recommended single interface must also integrate a comprehensive e-scanning system to enhance cargo clearance operations.
- The Nigerian Customs must take strategic steps to deepen its collaboration with other members of the World Customs Organization to get pre-alerts from origin countries on accurate cargo descriptions before the arrival of cargoes at Nigerian ports or border posts. This can be modeled after the US Importer Security Filing system, where all cargoes entering the US from every part of the world is scanned to ensure that cargo information (description, weight, dimension, quantity, value, etc.) provided at origin are accurate on arrival at destination. This will reduce the high incidence of dumping from many industrialized countries.
- Total government support for the enforcement of all machinery geared towards making the e- cargo tracking system a successful national project.
- Education and re-orientation of law enforcement agents, shippers, Forwarders and licensed agents or Customs Brokers.
- Law enforcement agents must be willing to accept and work with the system for the common good of all stakeholders.
- Zero tolerance for non-compliance with the e-tracking system
The prospect of a fully functional e-cargo tracking system in Nigeria is quite interesting not only because it will improve our ranking on the Ease of Doing Business or Global Logistics Performance Index but for several other following benefits to all stakeholders involved in the movement of cargo in and out of Nigeria:
- An effective Scanning and e-Tracking system will simplify Customs Clearance procedures in such a way that it’s easier to track consignments in the Supply Chain. Apart from security and efficiency in cargo clearance operations, the efficiency of container scanning can increase the inflow of container volumes into Nigeria; will boost general industrial activities, Inventory Management and revenue generation for all stakeholders.
- It will reduce the high incidence of dumping and false declaration of cargo values or the attempts to deliberately provide wrong information or circumvent the system.
- Customs declarations and compliance processes will also become more transparent than ever before.
- It will decongest the port areas due to minimal need to conduct a physical examination of cargo.
- It will reduce transit time, enhance cargo safety and help traders better predict the arrival of goods says Comptroller-general of customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd).
- It will increase government revenue because the appropriate duties, levies, and taxes will be paid for every cargo that enters or leaves the shores of Nigeria.
Going by its application in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and many advanced nations of the world, the benefits of an e-cargo tracking system are many and can hardly be exhausted in a single article, but they surely cut across several stakeholder segments. Establishing it is justifiable. Global best practice demands it. It is required for ease of doing business and for a highly efficient logistics performance. The cost of establishing and implementing the system (technological and high skilled manpower requirements) may be high but the long-term benefits far outweigh the cost of investment.