Nigeria Customs Modernisation Driven by ICT

Information and Communication Technology ICT, has become one bright spot in the Nigeria Customs Service reforms’ story since 2006. So far, trade volume and clearance rate has increased exponentially becoming a model for West African trade authorities. Azarema Abdulkadir, says the Nigeria Customs Service has established a one-stop-shop portal of comprehensive accurate and up-to-date information for trade facilitation.



Increasingly, electronically facilitated international trade is becoming indispensable due to increasing volume of trade transactions and heightened global security needs. As a result, the Nigeria customs service NCS, has increased its modernisation efforts in the last few years in the area of information and communication technology related trade facilitation and security programmes. During the period, the NCS has dedicated efforts in adopting innovations in modern technology beginning with supply and installation of new computers and software which culminated in ICT driven services for efficiency, improved telecommunications infrastructure networking all its formations and other critical stakeholders across the country, and consequently reduced cost of doing business with traders and the government and increased security controls.

So far, implementing ICT related measures and systems, however, necessitated complementary and adequate focus on human resources development, processes, policy and legal framework aspects of the worming environment. In this regard, the NCS has embarked on rigorous training of personnel, standardisation and simplification of processes, establishment of new policies and amendment of the existing laws in line with international conventions for effective ICT services, says Azarema Abdulkadir.

NCS ICT infrastructure/services

According to Azarema Abdulkadir, the ICT infrastructure and services that have been put in place by the NCS include: telecommunications system for networking all customs formations across the country, and of critical stakeholders in the trade supply chains particularly, fibre optics lines, VSAT and radio links with a central server at the headquarters, Abuja for data interchange and collaboration, as well as the provision of adequate computer units for field operations in the cargo clearance process for faster processing and release of cargo.

In line with this, we have also facilitated the development of software named Nigerian Integrated Customs Information System (NICIS) that provides services for e-form M, e-manifest transmission, e-declarations, e-payments, e-remittance, e-reconciliation and e-release of goods to facilitate cargo clearance. Currently, the NICIS serves as a driver for the National Single Window for the integration of all stakeholders, he said. In addition, the establishment of private and public DTI services has enabled imports/agents to make their declaration and payment without coming to customs office.

National Single Window for trade

NCS has established a National Single Window (NSW) environment to allow partners in trade and transport submit standardised information/documents at a single entry point that satisfied all import, exports and transit regulatory requirements for single processing and release by customs and all other government agencies. The NSW being a trade facilitation concept initiated by Customs across the World has advanced the efficacy of pubic authorities and offers greater prospect for faster cargo clearance. Apart from faster cargo clearance and release times, the new portal enables both the public and private sectors to deploy resources more efficiently thereby improving competitiveness at the organisational level and that of the economy with significant cost saving benefits.

Before the implementation of the National Single Window System, a comprehensive feasibility study was conducted across the international trade supply chain in Nigeria in 2012, involving all relevant public and private stakeholders to simplify their processes and procedures, integrate them on one platform for single processing of all trade documents.

The feasibility study has taken into consideration the needs of all stakeholders as well as business process and data harmonisation of all trading partners. So far, the Nigeria Customs Service has evolved an architectural framework of the national single window environment, change management and capacity building.

Risk management controls

At the NCS, risk management best practices are designed to keep customs physical inspection and controls to the minimum level necessary to ensure compliance with the law. Such controls though deemed necessary are applied selectively on the basis of risk of non-compliance by agents and traders. Based on the timely evaluation of data, the effective deployment of risk management techniques is best achieved by the use of appropriate ICT. As it were, controls exercised on the basis of this practice gives results with little or no intervention by Customs in the international supply chain, usually in the area of document checks and/or cargo examination, leading to quicker cargo clearance and release. In this regard, for example, all cargo on fast track for manufacturers are taken out of the port without examination until at the owners’ premises by the PCA and other government agencies, while those on the regulations are scanned or physically examined.

NCS PAAR Application

In order to effectively incorporate risk elements in cargo clearance process, the NCS has further developed a risk based application named Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR), an intelligence documents that would determine the valuation, classification, origin and risk level of any goods before their arrival. In this case, all goods coming into Nigeria has been categorised into one of different clearance lanes of green for compliant importers that require no examination at all; blue for manufacturers’ raw materials that also requires no examination at the port but at the owners’ premises; yellow lane for diplomatic goods and government concessions; light red lane for scanning and deep red lane for physical examination. When the PAAR application is fully deployed at the end of the contract period of the current scanning service providers who issue the Risk Assessment Report (RAR), the RAR will be replaced with PAAR.

With PAAR application therefore, the NCS will be able to determine which containers would be selected for scanning, even before arrival and their list would hence be forwarded to the port operator for scanning from the ship side immediately on arrival, and to be staked separately. On declaration by the owners of such containers, stored images from the scanner system would be retrieved for analysis and release if there are no discrepancies, while those with discrepancies will be further examined physically. This practice would save time for both the importers and the port operators, thereby reducing costs of doing business.

Nigerian Trade Hub

The NCS has established a national information repository – the Nigeria Trade Hub, says Azarema. A. It is a single source of all trade regulatory information, providing comprehensive accurate and up-to-data information which can result in tangible benefits in terms of trade facilitation. Such benefits include substantial cost saving to the trading community which relevant guidance is obtained online without the need to seek advice in person from several locations. This would enable traders make sound decisions about doing business in Nigeria. The portal is offering online-line accessibility 24/7, mobile applications including access on smart phones; interactive and intuitive features, classification/valuation tool, document library, currency converter, duty and other taxes calculator and up-to-date news.

It is of interest to note that currently the Nigeria Customs Service operates a paperless business climate where form M are processed electronically by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN and commercial banks, while trade manifests are transmitted to the Customs server online by shipping /airlines, in addition to declaration made from importers’/agents, Customs offices or at DTI cafes’ without visiting Customs offices. The reforms ensured that payments of duty to the banks by importers/agent is currently online, and these revenues are routinely remitted to CBN electronically. At the Customs ICT, reconciliation of remitted revenue between the banks and the CBN is done by the NCS online, while the release of goods on green and blue lanes can be done automatically by the NICIS system, just as the rest are either scanned or physically examined due to other government agencies regulations.

From the foregoing, it is manifest that the NCS modernisation driven by ICT system has provided an integrated environment for all relevant stakeholders to operate on a single platform for efficient processing and timely release of cargo, thereby facilitating trade and improving Nigeria’s business environment as one of the key objectives of the current Jonathan administration.

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