In order to enhance the clearance of goods and facilitation of trade at the nation’s seaport and land borders, the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) has introduced an e-certification platform which allows it to integrate into the Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System (NICIS).
Speaking at a sensitization seminar it organised for importers, clearing agents and freight forwarders in Lagos, Director General of SON, Joseph Odumodu said the new system which will commence in November 2015 will make business a lot easier to conduct as it would enable importers carry out their transactions from the comfort of their offices thus eliminating human contact and enhancing the status of trade facilitation in the country.
He said the integration will help check sub standard goods importation, adding that the agency was also working at reducing the rate of sub-standard goods imported into Nigeria from 40 to 10 percent.
“What we are doing today is to make business a lot easier. It will reduce tendency for corruption. People go to Lekki, Apapa but with this new platform, there won’t be any need to come to us again. Stay in your office and do all your transaction, pay your fees and clear your goods from the port.
“People must now do the right thing. You must pay your tax, you must also apply with the right documentation, if the documents are not right, the system will not allow you carry out the transaction,” he said.
Odumodu also dismissed media reports that the agency was seeking to return to the port saying that with the new system in place, SON’s officials will not need to be in the port to check sub-standard goods that come into the country.
He added that the agency now has a new mandate to enter any warehouse and impound products that are sub-standard.
“We have not returned to the port and we also do not seek to return to the port. The point is we have a right to know what is coming into the country and we will find ways of doing that. This system we help us to know what is happening and coming into the ports. So it makes it easier for me to use my computer to do that but there is no plan to return to the port,” he said.
Odumodu also said that as part of its new mandate, SON has been empowered to designate certain ports for certain products. For instance, he said import of cables into the country would only be allowed to come in through Apapa Port.
“People who bring cable into the country through Seme border will very soon no longer be allowed to do that because what we plan to do is to make Apapa Port the only port from which you can bring cables into Nigeria. So, if we see cables in any other port even in Tin can Island we shall remove them and destroy them,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, representative of the Acting Comptroller General of Customs, Comptroller, Information, Communication Technology (ICT), Aber Benjamin said Customs was desirous of facilitating trade hence the development of the NICIS platform which has helped in interfacing with other stakeholders in the trade supply chain and to share information and intelligence on imports and exports.
He said SON’S integration into the platform will further promote the harmonization of trade and serve the trading public better.
“Customs do not import, we only handle trade document and we have other regulatory government agencies that are working in collaboration with us. We can only facilitate trade by developing a platform whereby those regulators who are also approving documents for trade must be in harmony in such environment that the trader can easily understands what he is to do.
“If we don’t harmonize all these process to serve you better then we are not giving you the services we are suppose to give you in a manner that will encourage legitimate trade,” he said.
By Pita Ochai