23 September 2013, Sweetcrude, Lagos – THE modernization project of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, which the Federal Government contracted to Webb Fontaine has placed the service on the pedestal that enables it compete effectively with any other Customs organization in the world.
The project has also upgraded the Customs Automated System of Customs Data, ASCUDA, which is being replaced by the Nigeria Customs Information System, NICIS, allowing for the quick clearance of cargoes and facilitation of trade.
NICIS will also allow the Customs to deal with various publics electronically just as the trading public can also access the Customs electronically.
The NICIS project according the Managing Director of Webb Fontaine Mr. Muktar Ahmed is actually meant to facilitate trade and quicken the clearance of cargoes from the ports.
Currently, more than nineteen government agencies are inter-connected to the Customs’ NICIS, while twenty others are making efforts to get connected.
Besides the inter-connectivity of the various government agencies, all the commercial banks in the country have also been inter-connected with a view to confirming payments made by importers electronically.
The terminal operators, the Scanning service providers, 67 cafes, airline agents are now expected to deal or transact their businesses with the Customs Service electronically.
The NICIS also requires importers and agents to be more computer literate as online transactional Customs clearance processing will eliminate the human contact between agents and Customs.
Virtually all the connected agencies have done so via secured licensed radio link to NICIS National Private Telecommunication Network node in Abuja but CBN is currently setting up a new optical fibre link to NICIS
The CBN seems to be at the centre of the entire modernisation project as they issue a form ‘M’ number between the NCS, scanning service providers and the banks.
The CBN’s involvement will also create automated alerts on expired and overused/unused forms M.
The NICIS will also make it easy for the tracking of all Customs operations, electronic payments and remittances.
Some of the agencies that are currently connected to the NICIS include the Standard Organisation of Nigeria, SON, Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, NBS, and the office of the National Security Adviser.
NIMASA is about the only agency that is connected to the NICIS National Data Centre through a radio link in Apapa. Others are the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, the Federal of Finance and Nigerian Postal Service, NPS.
The National Insurance Commission, NIC, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission, NIPC, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, and Manufacturers Association Of Nigeria, MAN, Ministry Of Trade & Investment, MOTI, are also making efforts to inter-connect.
Ahmed explained that the inter-connectivity of other agencies to the information technology of the Customs Service has also assisted importers to take quick delivery of their cargoes adding the essence of the modernization project was actually to facilitate trade.
Explaining further, Ahmed said that before now, the NICIS will assist importers in doing their businesses electronically, a function the ASYCUDA system could not do.
“When the contract was signed, the four main agencies that were targeted were the Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, NBS, but in the course of the project, we now realised that in international trade everything is going towards a single window direction and so Web Fontaine sold the vision to Government that other agencies can come under one single platform.
Ahmed also said that Web Fontaine has brought its expertise to bear through the introduction of its Trade World Manager (the engine of the NICIS) to perfect the entire modernization of the Nigeria Customs Service.
Speaking on the need to eliminate the issue of human element that seems to breed corruption in the port industry, Chairman of the Port Consultative Council, PCC, Otunba Kunle Folarin said that the modernisation of the port system should not be limited to the Customs alone adding that it should be holistic so that Nigerians can feel the impact.
He explained that the modernization should be done to other stakeholders so as to have everybody on the same platform.
The maritime labour expert said that the project will enhance the 48 hours cargo clearance time that the government is trying to achieve.
“The project will reduce the issue of corruption as human contact will be brought to the barest minimum.
“There is also a need to install a port community working system alongside the development of the information technology infrastructure.
“By the time you reduce human contact, corruption will go down by 75 per cent over night and when you connect the port community through a system of inter-connectivity where the shipping companies are abreast with what is going on in the terminals and the importers and agents are also aware of the new trends then you will see that the cost of doing business will drop.
“There is the need to integrate all the service together and make sure that there is linkage between one service provider and the other.