–—lauds automation system of the service as world-class
The Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area(AfCFTA) has declared that the expertise and experience of the Nigeria Customs Service are critical to the successful implementation of the continental trade agreement.
Mr. Wamkele Mene, the Secretary-General of the Continental trade body disclosed this Wednesday when he led a team from the secretariat of the Continental trade at Accra, Ghana to the Apapa Customs Command.
The AfCFTA Scribe and his entourage were in the Apapa command to seek firsthand information on the automation process of the Nigeria Customs service.
Mr Mene and his entourage, who were taken through a practical demonstration of the automation process by the Apapa Customs Area Controller, Comptroller Malanta Ibrahim Yusuf, were full of praises for the advanced form of automation process of the Nigeria Customs Service which he said they were ready to learn and adopt as a model for other African countries, some of which he said their Customs operations are still in a primitive level.
”We cannot implement the agreement without the Customs authorities. We cannot leave the implementation to the policy people in the ministries of trade. We need the Customs authorities as the pillar of successful implementation of the trade agreement.” he said.
He revealed that the Secretariat has hosted five meetings in Accra of the heads of Customs in Africa where they were asked for their support and input on how to implement the trade agreement.
”Without their involvement, we cannot succeed” he reiterated.
Earlier, Comptroller Yusuf, in a slide show, explained the automation and digitalisation process of Customs operations and how it evolved from 1998 with the ACYCUDA project and how it went through a different transformation to the present level of enhanced automation level that has made Customs processes seamless, faster, quicker.
He also discussed the trade facilitation process at the Customs, especially at the Apapa command which is the flagship of the Nigeria Customs service.
This was followed by a physical demonstration by taking the AfCFTA team to the CPC and the APMT .
An apparently impressed AfCFTA Secretary-General said Nigeria has a world-class automation process which the Secretariat will adopt as a model for other less endowed countries, some of which Customs operations are still manually done.
”My assessment is that the Nigeria Customs automation system is a top-class system, it is digital, it is automated. It is world-class.
”As I earlier mentioned, sometimes we mention Singapore and Dubai but we have our own success story here on the continent, particularly when it comes to digital systems.
”So I congratulate the Nigeria Customs service for all of the technological innovations to move ahead and take the lead.
”There are others who simply don’t have the system, we will have to meet them up to make sure all of us are at the same level of automation”
”Different countries in the continent are in different levels of automation and that is a problem because it means that our systems are not speaking to one another.
”Our responsibility is to think about how to develop a system to bring us to the same level, and that is what we learned that Nigeria is moving ahead in automation and digitalisation.
”As a secretariat, our role therefore will be to create a system or encourage an automation system that all customs authorities can have confidence in.
”There would be challenges, some countries will not be ready, while some counties will say they have challenges with the internet, with the borders, we should expect there would be these challenges.
”But I think if we invest in soft infrastructures, and digital systems that will make a trade to be faster, more efficient, and quicker at affordable rates, that is exactly what we should be striving for.
”There are different levels of automation. Some countries simply don’t have it. It is still manual, everything is done by hand.
”So all of the systems that Nigeria Customs have, we cannot say all African countries have them. So we have to make sure we learn from those who have the system and we roll out the models of such systems they have introduced as you have done here in Nigeria and make sure they use this automation and our systems inter- operatable so that if you are trading goods from Ghana to Togo, Togo to Benin, Benin to Nigeria, Nigeria to Niger, that is a seamless system and that is going to take investing, it will require resources.
”That is not the concern of Nigeria, that has to be our concern at the Secretariat to make sure we mobilise resources for a customs system that is automated for the African continent.
”It may not happen next month or this year but we have to make sure we do it in the next three to four years mobilising these investments”, he declared`
Mr Mene disclosed that the objective of their visit is to learn the operations of the Nigeria Customs Service as his team has done in other African countries they have visited.
According to him, this will enable the Secretariat effectively integrate all Customs operations in African countries into AfCFTA implementation if they were to meet the target set by the African Heads of states that trade within the African continent should double by 2035.
He further disclosed that there are three annexes that are critical to the successful implementation of the trade agreement.
These include trade facilitation, Customs procedures and transit of goods.
He said that is the reason why the involvement of the customs authorities in the continent is vital to the success of AfCFTA.
The AfCFTA scribe, therefore, congratulated Nigeria for its invaluable contributions to the continental trade agreement.
”I congratulate Nigeria for being an active participant in the rule of origin negotiations as well as the Heads of Customs authorities.
”We value your contributions to AfCFTA. We need your experience and expertise for the successful implementation of the trade agreement” he declared.
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