Post COVID-19 Crisis: Nigeria’s economy needs digitalisation to stay afloat – ANLCA President, Mr Nwabunike
*Says Customs can clear cargo with digital operations
By Udeme Clement
As Nigeria’s economy continues to experience sluggish growth and low commercial activities following the devastating effects of COVID-19 pandemic, Freight Forwarders operating in the Maritime sector are calling on the Federal, sub-national governments and Customs to focus more on digital operations like what obtains in advanced countries.
Speaking with Journalists in Lagos, the National President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Mr Iju Tony Nwabunike, said digitalisation of operations is the way to go, especially for cargo clearance and trade facilitation in the nation’s ports.
His explanation; “The Coronavirus outbreak has devalued the global economy and made us to think otherwise about businesses as Freight Forwarders operating in the seaports.
Mr Tony Nwabunike, who is a Freight Forwarder and major stakeholder in the maritime sector pointed out, “The pandemic has impacted negatively on all sectors of the economy.
“For example, there are challenges of massive job cut, very low importation as many business men can no longer bring in goods, the economy is also experiencing low savings, even in education sector nothing is happening now, export is almost at a stand-still, while import is skeletal and many small scale businesses have gone under.
“In fact, the pandemic brought about disorganisation in the ports and dis-jointment among shipping companies and agencies of the Federal Government in the ports. Therefore, as a country and business men, COVID-19 has shown that we need new ways of thinking, business transactions and trade facilitation. The way forward is digitalisation.”
Responding to questions about the attitude of essential workers in the ports with COVID-19 crisis, he commended Customs officers for being on ground always to carry out their duties in the ports notwithstanding the pandemic.
His words, “Aside from Customs, other government agencies are not too visible in the ports due to the restriction. Banks are not operating optimally. Right Now, terminal operators are not working at full capacity and this is taking its toll on cargo clearance and trade facilitation. We are eager to see how the stakeholders can interface in paying duty”.
On how digitalisation can be practically applied to resuscitate the economy in post-COVID-19 regime, he explained, “holistically, we need new ideas and digital skills in doing business. But is Nigeria ready for digitalisation? This is a big question we need to answer going forward.
“Digitalisation implies appropriate use of information technology in our operations. For instance, with digital application, we can do documentation, pay import duty and clear goods from the ports without physical appearance.
“This means, we can minimise physical contact and still carry out our operations optimally. With digital knowledge, a Freight Forwarder can get his cargo released from any port without being physically present at the port.
“This is what digitalisation does. It fast tracks business transactions, reduces human contact, allows accuracy in the use of data and gives positive results within the shortest possible time. This is exactly what Nigeria needs to keep the economy afloat ”
He informed, “Maersk Line has been organising webinar online to teach importers and Freight Forwarders how to get their goods out of the ports without physical appearance. Customs should follow this pattern to release containers without physical appearance of the importers. This will save time and enhance more revenue collection for government.”