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FG slashes import, export documents at ports to boost ease of doing business, but…

The stagnation of business activities at the ports which has reached crescendo may soon begin to rise if recent directives by the Secretary of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, are implemented.

However, investigations by Business Hilights show that the key challenge to ease of doing business at the ports is not process of paying receipted payments but unreceipted ‘settlements’ structured in a way an importer or clearing agent cannot escape by some agencies of the government.

Rising from a sensitization workshop on the Ease of Doing Business Reform organised by the Nigeria Customs (NCS) in Lagos, weekend, federal government has approved the reduction in documents needed for import from 14 to 8 and 10 to 7 for export.

Oduwole who doubles as the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Industry, Trade and Investment said the new directive is part of the reforms in the 60-day national action plan for ease of doing business which is expected to end by April.

According to her, “In our diversification push it is impossible to really import and export without functioning ports. So we have scoped and started working in October 2016 on entry and exit of goods”.

She revealed that the decision was a function of understanding reached in collaboration with Customs, Nigerian Port Authority, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, and terminal operators.

Dr. Oduwole noted that “We have released some directives to the Finance Ministry, the CG of customs has also issue some directives on palletization of goods coming to Nigeria and on amount of documentation because we want to save cost and time for SME’s and anybody exporting or importing into Nigeria. So documentation for imports has been reduced from 14 to 8 and export from 10 to 7 and this is with immediate effect”.

“Trading across borders, starting business, getting credit, dealing with construction permits, paying taxes, registering properties and getting electricity are key indices of the reforms initiated by PEBEC.

She added that PEBEC has implemented the upgrade of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) online portal to ensure document upload capabilities for new businesses to be registered online without having to visit the CAC office.

In his remarks, a Deputy Controller of Customs, Anthony Ayalogu also highlighted some in-house reforms on ease of doing business at the ports, saying cargo release order, letter of credit, manufacturer’s certificate of production, payment receipt of customs fee among others have been removed from documents needed to clear goods at the ports.

He said, “Used spare parts must be packed in cases and the case packed in pallets. The packing list of the containers must be itemised as the goods are arranged in the containers.

“Vehicles imports should have the complete 17 digits VIN inscribed on the bill of laden. All form M goods should have the form M number stated on the Bill of Laden and all diplomatic goods indicated on Bill of Laden,” Ayalogu said.