Uncertainty over 2025 target for single window implementation

With about eight months to go until the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) 2025 deadline, stakeholders are expressing frustration and uncertainty about Nigeria’s ability to implement the National Single Window.

This concern is coming despite the Nigerian Ports Authority’s (NPA) assurance that the Port Community System (PCS), crucial for the National Single Window’s implementation, would go live in 2024 to enhance port operations, data exchange, and efficiency.

Earlier this year, the NPA leadership was optimistic that Nigeria could achieve port automation and necessary integration before the IMO’s deadline, aiming to eliminate all forms of human interface, corruption, and the resulting delays that undermine the efficiency of the nation’s ports.

The leadership highlighted that implementation would also reduce business costs, boost efficiency and transparency, as well as enhance the ports’ trade-friendliness and competitiveness in West and Central Africa, by significantly reducing processing times.

The system, a digital platform designed to streamline trade processes by consolidating all trade-related activities into a single portal, is expected to improve customs clearance, documentation, and cargo handling efficiency.

However, stakeholders, including trade associations, business chambers, and logistics companies, have voiced concerns over the sluggish pace of the single window implementation.

These stakeholders lament the initiative’s significant delays, which they believe are hampering its potential to transform the country’s trade environment.

They expressed frustration and disappointment over these delays and criticised the Ministry of Finance for bureaucratic obstacles that are hindering progress.

A former National Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Babatunde Mukaila, shared his dismay at the implementation delays at the ports.

He noted that while the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) seems prepared to lead with global best practices and trade tools in mind, the delays foster corruption and unpredictability.

A logistics expert and Chief Executive Officer of Swaft Logistics Limited, Mrs. Aisha Yusuf, highlighted the negative impact of delays on businesses and trade operations.

She mentioned that the logistics industry is eagerly awaiting the rollout of the single window system to streamline operations and improve efficiency in customs clearance.

Yusuf pointed out that the continued delay in implementation has led to increased paperwork, cargo clearance delays, and additional costs for businesses.

According to her, this not only undermines competitiveness but also hampers economic growth.

Also, a chieftain of ANLCA, Pius Ujubuonu, emphasised the negative impact of delays on business and trade operations, stressing the urgent need for implementation to realise significant efficiency gains and cost savings for businesses involved in international trade.

Ujubuonu stressed that the longer the delay continues, the more businesses will suffer, and the greater the risk of losing the nation’s competitive edge in the global market.

A frontline freight forwarder, Chidi Anthony Opara, pointed out the ICT-driven nature of single window functionalities and the challenges of integrating data from various departments into one platform.

He also mentioned resistance from those who stand to lose power due to the system’s implementation.

An economist and trade policy analyst, Dr. Ngozi Echeibiri, condemned the Ministry of Finance’s approach to the single window initiative, arguing that bureaucratic red tape has stifled innovation, hindered progress, and undermined investor confidence.

The stakeholders are, however, calling for the government to expedite the process and address the bottlenecks.

They urge greater coordination among relevant agencies, enhanced stakeholder engagement, and stronger political will to advance the necessary reforms.

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