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We Have Continued to Curtail Barriers to Non-oil Export

The full complement of the Inside Watch Africa (IWA) Trade Watch team was present when Comptroller Mohammed Babandede, the Customs Area Controller of the newly created Lilypond Export Area Command at a press briefing he gave on Wednesday 20th April 2023, at the Area Command’s conference hall, announced that they had processed 118,184.96 metric tons of non-oil export worth N86, 426,279,070.59, with an equivalent free-on-board value (FOB) of $204,656,119.04 from January to March 2023, during his presentation of the command’s scorecard for the first quarter of 2023 at the event.
Babandede who said cocoa topped the list of items processed within the period listed other agricultural produce such as cashew nuts, sesame seeds, hibiscus flower, soya beans and ginger among the exported produce. The Area command also processed mineral resources such as lithium ore, manganese ore, and zircon sand with manufactured goods like instant noodles, cosmetics, cigarettes and beverages making a showing, in the period under review.


Comptroller Mohammed Babandede, Customs Area Controller of Lilypond Export Command

Speaking further, Babandede said that one of the major achievements of the Area Command within the period they started operations is how they had recognizably justified the primary reason the Area Command was created which is essentially to make export business in Nigeria, effective and efficient by drastically reducing the unnecessary barriers and delays that were hitherto experienced by exporters of goods from Nigeria to the outside world. He attributed this feat majorly to the fact that the Area Command is a one-stop shop which has all the relevant agencies domiciled in a place and working harmoniously together.

He also made it known at the event that they have significantly contributed to the reduction of the congestion that was experienced for several years on the Ijora-Apapa access road to the mother ports of Apapa and Tincan Island ports as they have created space for export containers in the Area Command, thus freeing up the road for only import bound containers. This contribution by the Area Command, Babandede said, has clearly helped to expressly reduce the cost of doing export business in Nigeria. He said the command, in collaboration with shipping lines has helped to reduce the turnaround time of a vessel which has, in turn, reduced the incessant cancellation of export contracts by importers of goods from Nigeria. They have further ensured that the requisite phytosanitary certificates are obtained by the exporters of Agricultural crops out of Nigeria. The notorious cases of container pilfering along the access road have also decreased significantly.

On inter-agency collaboration and stakeholders’ engagements, Comptroller Babandede said: “We enjoy excellent cooperation with other government agencies, I would like to seize this opportunity to appreciate the Nigerian Ports Authority for coming up with the concept of Export Processing Terminals (EPTs) and by providing necessary support to the Command. I also want to commend the patriotic role of our sister agencies who have always partnered with us in our quest to effectively perform our statutory functions in compliance with extant laws”.

“Since the Command was created and commissioned on November 1, 2022, with the mandate of fast-tracking export businesses for quick turnover; to ensure proper documentation and repatriation of export proceeds back to the country, and to decongest the ports and all the roads leading to the ports, I have been meeting with various stakeholders comprising Terminal Operators, Exporters, Licensed Agents, Freight Forwarders, and Shipping Lines. May I use this medium to reassure our stakeholders that Lilypond Export Command will continue to facilitate their legitimate trade”, he further said.

Babandede thanked the Customs Comptroller General, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd.) and his management team for their continuous support. While commending officers and men of the Command for their contributions to the successes achieved so far, he appealed to them to double their efforts in order to achieve greater heights in the coming months.

Speaking to newsmen on the sideline of the media briefing, Mr Afolabi Hakeem, a representative of Starlink Global and Ideal Limited, he told journalists that before Lilypond Export Command was created, his company lost over 600 metric tons of cocoa to theft and operational delays. He added that the losses continued until the Command was created. While describing the command as the best creation of the Buhari government for exporters, Hakeem said his company as one of Nigeria’s leading cocoa exporters also succeeded in exporting 1,100 containers of cashew nuts between January and March 2023.

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