April 16, 2024

Maritime Today Online

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Customs champions AEO pilot program to boost trade efficiency

In a bid to boost trade facilitation efforts and streamline customs clearance procedures, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has spearheaded the implementation of an Authorised Economic Operators (AEO) program.

The initiative aims to enhance the efficiency and predictability of trade operations across the country.

Speaking during a stakeholders meeting in Abuja on Tuesday, the Comptroller-General of Customs (CGC) Adewale Adeniyi emphasized the significance of the AEO program in fostering collaboration between the Nigeria Customs Service, Other Government Agencies (OGAs), and industry experts.

The CGC underscored the determination needed to work together and ensure that the narrative is changed about the ease of doing business in and around Nigerian ports.

“And if you have observed, you will also see that AEO cuts across virtually every player in the sector, the exporter, the importer, the government agencies, regulatory agency, the customs and everybody in one way or the other.

“So this allows us to address some of those issues. So that when next operators talk about compiling how much time it takes them, we will see data that are a little bit more friendly,” he said.

He recalled that the NCS in February 2024 launched a Time Release Study (TRS) as another measure to optimise the trading experience within Nigeria.

Assuring stakeholders of the NCS’s dedication to the successful implementation of the AEO program, CGC Adeniyi announced plans to commence the pilot program on April 15, 2024.

He explained that the objectives of the pilot phase include evaluating the visibility and effectiveness of implementing the AEO program within the Nigeria Customs Service and soliciting feedback from key stakeholders.

He said, “All these pilots that we want to run, we aim to identify potential challenges, fine-tune our processes, and lay the groundwork for a full-scale rollout of the AEO program.”

He expressed the Service committment to fostering transparency, inclusivity and collaboration while ensuring that the program’s designs and execution align seamlessly with international standards.

He said seven key stakeholders, including importers, exporters, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Customs Licensed Agents, Logistics Operators, and Government Agencies, have been selected to participate in the pilot scheme of the AEO program.

Project Manager of the Authorised Economic Operator, Chief Superintendent of Customs Awa Nnenna, said the pilot phase of the program is designed to streamline Customs clearance processes while ensuring transparency and inclusivity in line with international standards.

Awa noted that the key benefits of the AEO program include expedited Customs clearance procedures and the establishment of mutual trust between Customs authorities and accredited operators.

On his part, Director-General of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), Charles Odii, commended the Nigeria Customs Service for its proactive approach to engaging small-scale business owners through the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) program.

Odii, while reiterating his commitment towards supporting the AEO programme, said the initiative will contribute to the growth of Nigeria’s GDP and Foreign Exchange reserves.

He emphasised the importance of creating avenues for domestic business owners, particularly SMEs, to participate and benefit from such initiatives.

“I believe that this program will enable SMEs to enhance their investments and leverage the opportunities presented by the AEO window,” he said.

He added that the program will not only streamline trade processes but also change the narrative surrounding trade in the country, ultimately fostering a more conducive environment for business growth and development.

“As we are launching this scheme, I am looking forward to the many more testimonials within the next six months.

“What we want to do is get all the testimonials to help ease the operations at the port and see how these will trickle down to job creation and just helping to increase livelihoods of small business owners in Nigeria,” he added.

Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Pius Akutah, commended the NCS for the initiative and reiterated the council’s commitment towards supporting and ensuring the success of the AEO programme.

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