In spite of concerns being raised over government?s decision to employ the services of West Blue Consulting (WBC) to operate ?national single window? at the nation?s ports, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has given the IT consulting firm a clean bill of health.
According to the NCS, ever since the WBC was engaged in 2013 as a partner in capacity-building programs for customs officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to take over from service providers, it had performed tremendously.
An official correspondence from the Controller-General of the NCS, D. I. Abdullahi to the Commissioner-General of the Ghana Revenue Authority, and sighted by The aL-hAJJ, said ?West Blue was engaged as the technical partner in the deployment of the new trade portal, www.nigeriatradehub.gov.ng, to provide around-the-clock online and real time information about Nigerian international trade ?and it performed up to satisfaction?.
The July 2, 2015 letter noted that WBC spearheaded the development of the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) ?for pre-arrival processing of Nigerian imports?.
That, it said, happened at a time when the service providers were not forthcoming on the replacement system for customs clearance.
?Today, PAAR has been a success story in Nigeria by helping increase revenue by about 20 percent, reducing clearance time and improving operator compliance significantly,? the letter noted.
This positive verdict on WBC came at a time?when critics and some players in Ghana?s shipping industry are arguing that the Ghanaian owned IT consulting firm had failed in Nigeria for which reason the Nigerian government is working to kick them out of that country and recalling some Destination Inspection agencies to come back and work in Nigeria.
The Single Window concept provides that traders will start the clearing process from only one end to another end through one ?Window?.
The PAAR system is a modern Customs system of clearing goods from ports to facilitate trade.? Canada and other developed countries have all adopted this system which is known as Pre-Arrival Review System (PARS).
The system allows traders to submit their documents to Customs even before the loading of their goods from the port of exportation to enable Customs assess the duties in advance for the importer to pay the duties before the arrival of the goods.
Those in favor of WBC?s contract say that with the PAAR system, importers would not have to wait for the arrival of the goods before preparing and presenting their customs declarations for the payment of duties to clear their goods from the ports.
The system is designed such that immediately upon the arrival of goods, importers could go to the port to scan or physically examine their goods and take delivery, thus avoiding demurrage and other port charges.
It is however estimated that initially, between 60% and 75% of goods that would pass through Ghana?s ports would be cleared under this system and this would ease congestion at the ports.
However,?ever since it emerged that the presidency had instructed that the IT firm, which is owned by Valentina Minta, be given a contract to operate a national single window at the nation?s ports following the expiration of the contract of Destination Inspection companies in the country, it has faced stiff opposition.
President of Concerned Freight Forwarders Association, Dennis Effah, and others have all raised concern about the competence of the company with some of them arguing that WBC is an inexperienced company as compared to GCNET and the Destination Inspection Companies currently running the same system at the ports.
But a letter from the Nigeria Customs Service in response to an initial letter written to them by the GRA boss requesting information on WBC?s take-over of Destination Inspection (DI) project from contracted Service Providers.
The letter added that reported ?choke? and congestion associated with the early days of PAAR had nothing to with the failure of the PAAR system or its operator but was rather due to the reluctance of a DI company to live up to its contractual obligations.
It said the system had now fully stabilized, largely due to the pool of young officers who were trained to take over the DI program, noting that ?the credit largely goes to West Blue, whose approach to protect management favors sustainability?.
It said the NCS was willing to send a team of officers to Ghana to share more experiences on any other aspect of the project if required.
Among West Blue?s achievements was the setting up of a establishment of a new trade portal which provided round the clock online, real time information about Nigeria International Trade, spearheading the development of the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report for pre-arrival processing of Nigerian imports; a project which he claimed has been a success story by increasing revenue by about 20%, among others.