The Executive Secretary/CEO, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello, has said that Nigeria should adopt the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) 10-point action plan to strengthen international trade and transport during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at a workshop for stakeholders on the theme: “Trade Facilitation During the COVID-19 Pandemic-Challenges, Lessons and The Way Forward,” said that it is necessary to adopt the 10-point action plan to facilitate trade in the country.

He said the UNCTAD 10-point action plan includes uninterrupted shipping, keep the ports open, project international trade of critical goods and speed up customs clearance and trade facilitation, facilitate cross-border transport to ensure free flow of goods across borders and safeguard transparency and provision of up-to-date information. He said others are automation, electronic submissions and paperless transactions have become ever more important in observing the physical /social distancing, protect shippers and transport service providers alike; and proritise technical assistance by investing in human, institutional and technology capacities.

According to him, Council is committed to adopt maritime stakeholders’ resolutions at the meeting to implement them in order to facilitate trade in line with the UNCTAD 10-point action plan.

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He added: “The importance of these resolutions became visibly clear locally in Nigeria at the height and the of the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the course of of its daily monitoring exercise during that period, the NSC has observed that some shippers through no fault of theirs are unable to take delivery of their cargo because of number of reasons that include ban on public transportation during lockdown inadequate of banking services and among others.

He said NSC came up with some remedial measures and interventions to address the challenges during the lockdown to ensure that ports experience seamless operations.

Speaking further, he said it is pertinent to emphasise that the gaps experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the need for the adoption of e-commerce in the country especially the digitalisation of the port in order to reduce human-to-human contact, adopt and paper-based transactions as the norms for international trade interface and port operations. He pointed out that government and private sector alike need to embrace the concept of “smart ports” in line with the international best practice.

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