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Nigeria Customs Service champions Authorised Economic Operators Pilot Program to enhance trade

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The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has championed an Authorized Economic Operators (AEO) program to enhance the efficiency and predictability of trade facilitation efforts in the country.

The Comptroller-General of Customs (CGC) Adewale Adeniyi MFR, during a stakeholders meeting on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, in Abuja, said the program would foster collaboration between the Nigeria Customs Service, other government agencies (OGAs), and experts to boost AEO programmes.

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, the regulatory agencies, the customs, and everybody in one way or another.

“So this allows us to address some of those issues. So that when next operators talk about compiling how much it takes them, we will see data that is 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 the stakeholders of the Nigeria Customs Service’s commitment to run the pilot program of AEO successfully, the CGC said, “As we are taking the steps with you with the implementation of the Authorized Economic Operator program, which hopefully will start on April 15, 2024,”

He also explained that the objectives of the pilot program as a course were to evaluate the visibility and effectiveness of implementing the AEO program within the Nigeria Customs Service and to solicit feedback from all our key stakeholders.

He said, “With 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 optimism that the service will be committed to fostering transparency, inclusivity, and collaboration while ensuring that the program’s designs and execution align seamlessly with international standards.

“The reason we do this is because we want to remain attuned to the unique realities of our local context.

“Seven key stakeholders that are legal entities whose operations span across the international supply chain have been carefully selected by the pilot programs.”

The CGC revealed that it selected importers, exporters, small and medium enterprises, customs license agents, logistics operators, and government agencies as pilot stakeholders to run the pilot scheme of the AEO program in Nigeria.

He expressed his readiness to partner with business stakeholders to enhance trade in Nigeria.

He also urged the participants to expedite their commitment to ensuring the potential of the AEO program, which would foster a culture of efficient customs processes, compliance, integrity, and collaboration that would propel Nigeria.

“This is a collective and transformative journey; we must come together with renewed determination. Knowing that together we can shape a future that knows no boundaries and prosperity with no limits,” he said.

Also, Awa Nnenna, Chief Superintendent of Customs and Project Manager of the Authorized Economy Operator, 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.

“By facilitating smoother trade operations, the programme aims to stimulate economic growth.”

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

Odii, while reiterating his commitment to 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 in 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 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 help to increase the livelihoods of small business owners in Nigeria,” he added.

Mr Pius Akutah, CEO of the Nigeria Shippers Council, 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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