The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has launched FastTrack 2.0 (FT 2.0), a trade facilitation tool that will boost Nigeria’s ease of doing business efforts, saying it would no longer be necessary for Nigerian importers to route their cargoes through Cotonou, Benin Republic
Speaking at the launch in Abuja on Monday, Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, said with the completion of the Lekki deep seaport and the launch of the Fast Track 2.0, delay in cargo clearance which used to make Nigerian ports unattractive, was now a thing of the past.
He said, “With the launching of this FT 2.0, now we have a deep seaport you cannot tell us that the ship that is carrying your load cannot pass through Nigeria. That has been taken care of.
“Secondly now we have FT 2.0. We now have all we need to clear our goods within 24hours.”
The CG said that the scanners at the ports would greatly enhance service delivery by Customs officers and that only containers that were queried would need further investigations.
The Customs boss said the FT 2.0 regime was conceptualized, designed and deployed not only for manufacturers but traders who showed high levels of compliance in their trade dealings with Customs.
He said the launch of the programme would drastically reduce costs associated with cargo clearance delay and demurrage at the ports.
“FT 2.0 was designed to admit traders, irrespective of the nature of their trade on the basis of compliance alone. Its potential for encouraging traders to play by the rules is significant as it promises huge rewards, especially in the areas of drastic cost reductions associated with cargo handling and demurrage at the ports.
“Over a period of six months, the Service carried out sensitisation programmes in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano. This is with a view to informing the trading public about this latest version of FT 2.0, its roles and responsibilities expected of all parties in the clearance chain.
“The feedback gotten during this sensitisation informed the design of this robust automated system.
“It has inbuilt filters capable of accessing historical data and excluding traders who have displayed unwillingness to operate according to set down rules,” he said.
Ali added that FT 2.0 was a precursor to the introduction of the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) Scheme with more benefits for compliant traders.
He said he was optimistic that the launch of the programme would usher in an era where facilitation of trade would attract Foreign Direct Investments among other things.
“I want to thank our sister agencies for making adjustments in their clearance procedures to accommodate the smooth delivery of cargo at our ports.
“We want to assure all compliant traders of the willingness of Nigeria Customs to always listen to their needs and work ceaselessly to create solutions that will be beneficial to all,” he said.
The Comptroller- General said the responsibility of administering government policies with regards to trade often required the adoption of the carrot and stick approach.
He said the Service had strategically used the two measures in varying degrees to ensure not only collection of appropriate revenues for the government, but citizens’ wellbeing and legitimate trade facilitation.
The Minister of Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, commended NCS for the launch of the programme.
He said its introduction would tackle a lot of bottlenecks in the clearance process.
Adebayo said the Ministry would continue to support Customs to ensure it delivered on its mandate.