The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) at the weekend called on professional groups, businesses, and individuals to bolster ongoing trade facilitation initiatives in West Africa by using the ECOWAS Trade Obstacles Alert Mechanism (TOAM) to eliminate Non-Tariff Barriers (NTB) across the sub-region.
This is even as the agency lamented that, through TOAM, more than 400 trade obstacles have been reported along the West African border corridor.
TOAM, an online platform for complaint reports, aims to address NTBs such as lengthy clearance times, transit checkpoints with unwarranted delays, harassment, exorbitant illegal fees, and demand for bribes, among others, which have far-reaching consequences.
The Executive Secretary of the NSC, Honourable Emmanuel Jime, during a sensitization workshop organised by the NSC, the ECOWAS Commission and the United States Agency for International Development (ECOWAS-USAID) in Lagos at the weekend, noted that the barriers not only disrupt the seamless flow of goods but also pose a direct threat to regional integration endeavours.
The Executive Secretary, however, explained that more than 49 per cent of such barriers had been effectively addressed by national focal point representatives, supported by advisory services from the International Trade Centre (ITC).
According to the NSC Boss, “In addition, the NSC’s Complaints Unit (CU) stands as a testament to our tireless efforts in resolving shipping-related issues.
We understand that disputes and challenges can emerge during trade transactions. Hence, we have dedicated resources and expertise to swiftly address these issues, ensuring that businesses can continue operations with minimal disruptions.
“Our commitment to fostering collaboration and harmonisation among various stakeholders in the trade ecosystem is unwavering.
We actively engage with other agencies, both within Nigeria and across West Africa, to align our efforts in promoting trade facilitation.
“NSC is at the forefront of advocating for the digitization of port processes. We recognise that the digital transformation of port operations is instrumental in streamlining trade, reducing bureaucracy, and enhancing transparency.
Through advocacy and consistently embarking on initiatives aimed at enhancing trade efficiency and reducing barriers to participation in the modernization of port systems, we aim to usher in an era of more efficient and responsive trade infrastructure.
“Our collective focus today revolves around a topic that is not only crucial but timely, given our region’s aspirations for economic growth and regional integration.”
The NSC Boss further explained that the fully operational status of TOAM in all 15 ECOWAS member states underscores its potential to drive transformative change and enhance regional trade
Justifying the initiative, the Principal Trade Advisor, ECOWAP-USAID Operational Programme, ECOWAS Commission, Mr Justin Bayili, stressed the need to create a conducive environment for trade facilitation in the region.
While commending the approach being implemented as capable of bringing sustainable solutions, Mr Justin Bayili warned that multiple reports without a response will cause the region to lose focus.
Similarly, the President of the Ikom Chamber of Commerce, Mrs Flora Takim-Ndifon, said that TOAM’s greatest strength is the knowledge that one could do business legitimately without any fear of hindrance from anybody.
Some other stakeholders also urged the inclusion of truck drivers in the system to enhance results, while some noted that a lack of implementation and human elements, rather than the absence of workable policies and ideas, is the region’s undoing.
Stakeholders at the meeting included freight forwarders, the Nigerian Ports Authority, the Nigeria Customs Service, the Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria, the Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, among others.
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