By Richards Adeniyi
The controversies surrounding the electronic cargo tracking note (CTN) originally introduced by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in 2009 is set to resurface as the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, recently said plans were underway to refloat the scheme in 2019.
The CTN was first introduced in Nigeria on December 9, 2009 by the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC). The scheme was under the management of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) but was administered by a private firm, Transport and Ports Management Systems Ltd (TPMS) Antaser.
Before its initial introduction, there were assurances that the scheme would not attract additional charges to shippers, namely importers and exporters, but it soon dawned on all that the assertion was far from the truth. CTN attracted various sums ranging from a minimum of 150 Euros to as much as 450 Euros depending on the type and size of cargo.
Maritime industry stakeholders and the organised private sector condemned the implementation of the controversial scheme at the time leading to its hurried suspension on November 9, 2011.
“Please, be informed that Mr. President has approved the abolition of Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) for all shipments into and out of Nigerian seaports with immediate effect.
“In essence, no shipping line is authorized to demand for Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) as a condition for cargo shipment to Nigeria. This directive takes effect this day, 9th of November 2011 and all shipping lines operating in Nigeria are to adhere strictly and ensure compliance,” the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had stated in a terse statement.
The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), which had opposed the CTN when introduced by NPA, made a move in July 2015 to claim ownership of the project and reintroduce it as a mandatory requirement for importation into Nigeria. Stakeholders were however steadfast in their resistance against the reintroduction, arguing that it would increase the already bloated cost of doing business at the nation’s seaports. NSC eventually backed off as opposition to its move mounted.
But speaking in Abuja recently at a joint press conference with his Ugandan counterpart, Kateshumbwa Dicksons after a lecture series at the Customs Command and Staff College, Gwagwalada, Ali argued that the CTN will enhance Customs operations at various border posts in the country.
He was however silent on who bears the cost burden of the controversial scheme.
Ali said the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) had started evaluating different proposals with a view to commencing the electronic cargo tracking system in the country.
The customs boss expressed the hope that by 2019, the enforcement and use of the e-cargo tracking would commence.
He said, “By next year if the finances are available and we are in agreement with our technology service provider, we will start the electronic cargo tracking system even if we will begin on a small scale.
“Though we use technology in tracking cargo in some border posts, we must have the technology to monitor everything collectively.”
Ali disclosed that the agency had reached an agreement with the Ugandan Customs on how to collaborate and achieve desired results.
He noted that NCS had a lot of things in common with Uganda’s Customs and Revenue Authority in terms of driving desired reforms in the service.