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Nigeria needs improved port operations, customs trade facilitation, more for new trade outlook

Post COVID-19 lock-down, Nigeria would need to work with greater focus to meet the new demands of world trade as many economies would be working with speed and beneficial actions.

In this chat, Chairman of the Maritime Trade Group under the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture(NACCIMA), Mrs. Margaret Orakwusi, talks about a new normal
where economies of countries would either struggle to take the new lead or play a steady catch-up with remarkable progress.
For Nigeria, Orakwusi nudges the Nigeria Customs Service to be awake to the need for facilitating trade
beyond revenue collection. She also seeks a new approach that would ensure greater efficiency in the nation’s port operations.
Text of the interview:  
Post COVID-19 lock-downs, what should African countries be considering to
reshape their economies and keep moving?
I think we should all identify where our strength lies. To start with, Nigeria generates a lot of cargo
annually; cargo for export and cargo for import. For us, we need to align where our strength lies, we develop our shipping because all over the world, if you have the cargo you command the way and manner the cargo be lifted.
As we are developing our shipping, we are also making available employment. There are so many things, we don’t add value for instance for the crude we export. And what are those value we should add?  One, banking services, legal services, insurance, and then shipping. These are the values we are not adding. If we add these values you will find out that maritime creates a lot of employment, employment for both for skilled and unskilled labour. This is our advantage, which is what we have that most other countries don’t have. 
You have talked about Nigeria having both export and import cargo, how should that direct our preferences for the economy?
I know somebody would say how many tonnage you are doing.  Ghana, Republic of Benin, they are doing more. Yes, they are doing more, but we are the real gateway into West Africa. The only thing is that we need to drive efficiency in our port operations. We need to compete in such a manner that we would be able to offer these services that are time-tied. You know maritime process is driven by time. So, that is just the missing link. The agencies must work efficiently, our scanners must upgrade, Customs must upgrade and these agencies must facilitate trade. It shouldn’t be all for revenue. You cannot concentrate in driving revenue. You will drive all the businessmen and women out of job. Meanwhile, we all know the sector that is creating employment, should also facilitate trade.
As it were, where lies the strength of the economy?
Again, we are over 200 million people, and that is our strength in Africa. We provide a huge market. So, my
advice is that we should all specialise in areas that we have comparative advantage over others. Then, we should learn to at least have, not courage, but be confident in attacking issues with the rest of the world. It is not all the time that an imported item is better than what we produce here. And it is not all the time that we should go cap- in -hand begging for whatever from all these nations. We should look inward. This is a nation where you have crude oil, you have the market, and you have very good land. We can actively grow
this economy without assistance from anybody. And this is the time, if this is the only thing we are taking away from the challenges of COVID-19, I think we are doing very well.
Then our waters, we have to be careful, we have to monitor what is going on there. The resources in our
waters, very huge, a lot of potential, and we should guard it jealously. We should not allow people who have destroyed their environment to come and do same in Africa, and to dump their waste in Africa. It is not acceptable.
And we need to be bold enough to scream it to their ears; the EU, all of them, UN, and IMO, everybody should know, because our environment is really being battered. 
Go to Niger Delta, go to all those villages and areas, you will cry. You make it impossible for the local fishermen to fish, farmers to farm. There are no schools, no anything, and then all the money is leaving Nigeria. You know when there is spillage anywhere, especially in America, you know there is cleanup, there is compensation, punitive measures that would make them not to do that again. I
think these things should be addressed.


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