Nigeria Endless Quest for Single Window

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More and more government agencies are now embracing the use of information communication technology (ICT) in the discharge of their statutory roles and responsibilities. Though the involvement of many government agencies in ICT is desirable, the rising increase in the number of those involved in the maritime industry is giving cause for concern. This is particularly so in the Ministry of Transportation.

There are no fewer than seven parasatals in the Federal Ministry of Transportation. They are the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), and the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA).

Others are the Council Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (CRFFN), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), and the Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology (NITT).

At the last count, no fewer than four of these parasatals have embraced one form of ICT or the other gulping money running into several millions of naira in the process. For instance, the NSC said it has budgeted over N1billion for what it called “system automation” in its medium term economic programme.

The automation is meant to ease operations at the nation’s ports, with a view to significantly reduce the cost ports users incur in doing business in the ports. Speaking in Lagos on ‘Transforming the Nigerian Ports for National Economic Development: The Role of Nigerian Shippers’ Council,’ the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer, NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello, said the automation is part of a national single window being introduced at the nation’s ports.

Apart from the rivalry among the parasatals, especially between NPA and NSC in the quest to operate single window which is a form of ICT, the Federal Ministry of Transportation is also at loggerheads with other government agencies in other federal ministries.

For instance, there is no love lost between the Minister of Transportation, Right Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and the NCS on the implementation of the single window.

The infighting over which government agency control single window in the nation’s seaports came to the fore when Amaechi openly voiced his opposition to NCS handling of it in the ports.

 The minister argued that what NCS is doing is not a single window platform but manual operation. His argument has thrown up several questions in several quarters.

Why are so many government agencies under the supervision of one ministry fighting to put a single window without recourse to their sister agencies? Why the rivalry among the government agencies? What informed the endless quest for single window over the years?

Why is Amaechi opposing NCS to be the lead government agency managing single window or any other ICT in the nation’s seaports?

Not a few have wondered exactly what single window means. It must be noted that single window is a baby of the World Customs Organisation (WCO). It is a one-stop-shop for easier transactions aimed at providing a single procedure for the importer and exporter in his or her transactions in the ports, airports and international land borders. Single window is also a trade facilitation concept that is being promoted by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to make commerce easier for all players. There is no doubt that if the infighting and rivalry among the parasatals in the Federal Ministry of Transport continue and Amaechi continue to be antagonistic to other government agencies in the ports outside his supervision, the benefits of a single window will not only elude Nigeria nay Nigerians but will also be dead on arrival.

Amaechi who could barely concealed his animosity and anger against NCS openly accused the service of frustrating all efforts by the Federal Government to establish a single window platform for operations in the nation’s seaports. His outburst was in response to an earlier comment credited to two senior NCS topshots who attended the event on behalf of Ali.

They are the Assistant Comptroller General of Customs (ACG) Charles Edike and the ASYCUDDA Project Manager, Apapa Customs Command, Deputy Controller Yussuf Malanta. The Customs Chiefs annoyed Amaechi when they had earlier argued that it was impossible for the CCCIS surveillance gadget of the NPA to send a single manifest that would be used by all agencies at the ports. Angered at the comments, the minister reported told them that the Federal Government had already approved a firm to develop what he called “national single window” for the country.

He alleged that NCS has refused to key into the platform just as he pointed out that the service does not have any single window currently.

The minister argued that what NCS is doing is not a single window platform but manual operation. His argument has thrown up several questions in several quarters. Why are so many government agencies under the supervision of one ministry fighting to put a single window without recourse to their sister agencies? Why the rivalry among the government agencies? What informed the endless quest for single window over the years? Why is Amaechi opposing NCS to be the lead government agency managing single window or any other ICT in the nation’s seaports? Not a few have wondered exactly what single window means. It must be noted that single window is a baby of the World Customs Organisation (WCO). It is a one-stop-shop for easier transactions aimed at providing a single procedure for the importer and exporter in his or her transactions in the ports, airports and international land borders. Single window is also a trade facilitation concept that is being promoted by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to make commerce easier for all players. There is no doubt that if the infighting and rivalry among the parasatals in the Federal Ministry of Transport continue and Amaechi continue to be antagonistic to other government agencies in the ports outside his supervision, the benefits of a single window will not only elude Nigeria nay Nigerians but will also be dead on arrival.