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BASHIR ADEWALE ADENIYI:Tackling the challenges of a nation’s ultimate cash cow

Amos Adetunji

For those who may not know, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi is a consummate professional. And he is also highly knowledgeable, skilled, supportive of great ideas, conciliatory, warm, detailed and purpose-driven, attributes that are today, making all the difference at Nigeria Customs Service NCS.  It is therefore not surprising that many people, both within the service and outside, believe there could not have been a better choice as head of the NCS at a time like this given his wealth of experience and professionalism.

The Nigeria Customs Service, NCS is without doubt, a very strategic public institution that is very critical to the growth and survival of Nigeria for obvious reasons. In terms of revenue, the NCS is Nigeria’s second highest revenue source aside the Nigerian National petroleum corporation, NNPC.  Fortunately, NCS has recorded tremendous improvement in performance over the years. From the date available to this medium, that Nigeria Customs Service generated a total of N13.169 trillion from 2010 to 2021. Specifically, the data and other information show that the NCS generated N546.64 billion in 2010; N741.83 billion in 2011; N850.88 billion in 2012 and N833.4 billion in 2013. The service also generated the sum of N977 billion in 2014; N903 billion in 2015 and N899 billion in 2016. The annual revenue generation, however, moved into the trillion-naira realm with N1.03 trillion realized in 2017; N1.2 trillion in 2018; N1.34 trillion in 2019 and N1.6 trillion in 2020. The highest annual revenue generation by the NCS was recorded in 2021 with an unprecedented sum of N2.24 trillion. However, in 2022, it generated  a total of N2.60 trillion un revenue  

But the current charismatic Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs, Mr. Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, believes that the service could even do better. This view may not be farfetched .  He understands the strategic position of NCS : its strategic potential; in other words what it can do. He knows how rich in opportunities the operating environment is and how hostile it is , imposing threats and constraints.  For this ,Bashir is well armed with the strategic resources and capabilities; he set his  strategic ambitions, what he actually seeks to do based on his understanding of prevailing strategic position  of NCS in  its  operating environment .

 Sequel to the above understanding  ,  this uncommon Controller-General insists that the feat is not only attainable in revenue generation but also attainable as regards its other mandates. While revenue generation remains its ultimate goal, its mandates are also beyond that. A peep into the mandates of the service shows its leadership  is expected to  be intercepting contrabands such as illegal drugs and weapons; checking  travelers and their baggag; cargo and mail; assessing  and collecting  Customs duties and other taxes on Goods and Services; protecting  businesses against illegal trade malpractices; enforcing  import and export restriction and prohibition and collecting  accurate import and export data for economic statistical usage and planning

As the Nigeria gatekeepers, NCS is expected to use intelligence and risk assessment to target physical checks on containers, vessels or travelers and also conduct full investigations and audits, and prosecute offenders.

When he assumed duty as Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs service NCS, in June 2023, Adeniyi set for himself a very high standard and critical agenda to turn around the fortunes of the service and live up to its mandates. He was also desirous of transforming it for the good of the country.  To achieve the above mandates, the CG priorities were categorically defined, and he took on recuring issues like capacity building, enhancement of discipline and integrity among the rank and file; enhancement of the welfare of NCS men and officers; consolidating ICT deployment in the service; collaborating and partnering with other stake holders and international organizations and fostering mutual understanding between the service and the general public.

In the past few months , the  Nigeria Customs Service under the able leadership of Adeniyi has proved its worth. In terms of revenue collection despite the inherent and prevailing challenges , NCS has improved revenue collection impressively with courage and ingenuity.

For instance, last year the service generated a record N3.2 trillion revenue, representing a 21.4 per cent increase compared to the previous year of N2.60 trillion.

Prior to his appointment, the service collected an average revenue of N202 billion monthly in the first half of 2023, which later increased to over N333.9 billion in October representing a 65.5 per cent increase. Interestingly, the CG is targeting N6trillion for the 2024 fiscal year.

For the above feat and a promise of a brighter future, the CG continues to receive a lot of kudos and accolades. A customs officer who spoke his mind about the transformation taking places at NCS concluded by saying that : “My assessment is that Bashir has performed impressively, and many us are not surprised because of his track record”.

CHALLENGES AND THREATS BEFORE THE  CCG

However, achieving the above revenue leap by NCS was not that easy. It is important to note that its activities and potentials were initially paved with several challenges and threats, setting it against difficulties in translating those laudable mandates to reality. Sequel to this, while the above agenda and priorities may be beautiful, mixed feelings have continued to trail the target set by him. To the pessimists, it is easier said than done. 

 For this group of stakeholders, the revenue target set by the CG for himself is considered to be too ambitious. This is not to doubt the capabilities of the CG. However, considering certain critical challenges and obstacles that pave the operating environment, the target is believed to be doomed; some pessimists believed the target set by him is not feasible and even tagged it a political statement made to impress the government in power.

This pessimism is premised on the fact that the above improvements were achieved under a lot constraints; the belief is thathitting that target is like squeezing water from the rock

“Though there is nothing wrong in setting high revenue target for Nigerian customs service since revenue target is part of budget expectation, the fear however, is that meeting the target has nothing to do with determination of custom efficiency”, an insider explained. .

 According to him, the only handicap in meeting the target in naira and kobo is that it is largely beyond the control NCS.  “NCS is not in a position to determine the quantum and frequency of importation.  It doesn’t determine foreign exchange. Fiscal policy is not under its control”.“The Nigerian Custom Service, he noted, has only the infrastructural capacity, and I-Tech, ASYCUDA++. within their control.

Moreover, whether the above target is achievable is also a question of the attitude of other stake holders, which includes traders, agents, shipping companies, terminal operators and that of the service alone To him,” other stakeholders attitude must change to realize revenue expectation” he added.

The challenge confronting the leadership of the NCS is even beyond the above. Some experts say while NCS has the potential to generate more revenue into the coffers of the federal government, a big handicap before the CG remains the prevalent corrupt practices in the system.

The above view may not be misplaced. There are numerous revenue leakages in the system. According to an insider, these leakages had posed serious threats to the achievement of a similar revenue targets in the past.“We lose several hundreds of billions of naira every year to revenue leakages, ‘he said. Several incidents in recent times, involving officers of the NCS , he said , could result in pessimism around the CG’s resolve to boost the service revenue generation magnificently.

He said some criminals are experts in smuggling containers out of the ports without the knowledge of the rightful owners. These criminals, he said, during interrogations, are often confessed that they perpetrate the act in connivance with some customs officers.

 Often times, according to him, these criminals usually confess that they were authorized by the customs to move the containers which were abandoned for years.  Not only that, customs officers are alleged to sometimes auction containers without the consent of the owners.

Security experts confirmed this much. According to them a container could only be diverted in transit; trans loaded by criminals or actually removed from the port by clearing agent in collusion with customs officers.

 M.D. Abubakar, a former inspector General of police once corroborated thisview: “All the various methods are done with the aid of an informant. As soon as the container had been cleared and assigned to a transporter, he said the informant would quickly alert his men of the route and vehicle number of the target.” The police chief further explained that the actual diversion is between a clearing agent, receiver and transporter with the consent of a customs officials.

  It seems every activity of the Nigeria Customs men are laced with element of corruption. Concerned stakeholders have also condemned the anti-smuggling activities by some customs officers which they said are being welded in the wrong direction.

The Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA, of 1958 empowers the NCS anti-smuggling operative to seize trucks and other vehicles used in smuggling. Even though these efforts had been commended at various quarters, it is said to be gradually being used to make innocent truck owners bear the brunt of the failure of the NCS to forestall the rising trend of cargo under-declaration, false declaration, cargo concealment, and Customs duty value underpayment, respectively.

 Some importers have also complained that the NCS has become rather lukewarm in the discharge of its primary responsibility. They said rather than managing the borders from the influx of unregistered vehicles and other goods, they have turned the roads into avenues where vehicle are impounded with impunity. Some officers are even believed to be issuing low Debit Note (DNs) to importers who have cases of under-declaration and concealment in return for ‘settlement’

The Customs Headquarters is particularly worried about recent trends in the huge loss of revenues by the government. A source said this was what compelled the management of Customs to introduce a duty benchmark that was later suspended on the orders of the presidency.

Inefficiency in the NCS has also attracted global attention. According to the World Bank and International Finance Corporation index for doing business in Nigeria, 2023, it takes an average of 24 days and 10 documents to export a standard container from Nigeria, at a cost of $1,380 and an average of 39 days and 10 documents to import a standard container to Nigeria, at a cost of $1,540.

Besides corruption and inefficiency, NCS has been slowed down by nepotism as a result of year of lopsided recruitment and promotion policy.In the last couple of years, the NCS has typified government’s ministry, department and agency, MDA, where appointments at the top and middle managements position are skewed and lopsided and do not reflect the desire for justice and equity as enshrined in the nation’s constitution.The NCS is headed by the comptroller-General, CG and assisted by five deputy comptrollers-general, DCGs, who are heads critical departments. For instance, Bashir who is from Osun state, in the South west geo political zone, is the CG and is assisted deputy comptrollers-general DCGs.

  Next to theses cadre are comptroller, CACs, who run the affairs of each unit under the division. The CD,DCGs and ACHs constitute the management team of the service. Though the above structure is beautiful, this is messed up by nepotism.

 For instance, the NCS under the leadership of Abdullahi Dikko is a typical reference point of this morale killing attitude. In 2013 for instance, out of the 13 ACGs, seven were from the North and six were from the South. However, the story is radically different in the cadre, which is made up of tactical and operational officers who are in charge of Service’ commands and operations nationwide. This position is also strategic in the sense that it is just a rung below the hierarchy before the occupants are promoted to the Customs’ top management team.

Out of the 79 comptrollers presently in service, 50, about 63.3 per cent, are from the Northern part of the country while 29 a mere 36.7 per cent are from the South. Further breakdown of comptrollership positions revealed that the South-South geo- political zone has 14, South–West, 10 and South- East 5. The North –East has 19, North West,17 and North Central, 14. Interestingly, while each of the states in North has at least an indigence as a comptroller in the employ of the NCS, three states in the South – Osun, Ebonyi and Enugu do not have any indigene employed in this cadre.

Insiders say this injustice is the result of a large-scale marginalization that had been going on in the customs service for a long time but only increased during Diko’s tenure as CG.

This marginalization is perpetuated by a clique in the service, made up mostly of Northern officers and their few favored Southern officers as collaborators. This is mainly through manipulation of the recruitment and promotion exercises of staff. Before Dikko assumed duties as CG in August 2009, recruitment was “embargoed” for almost eight years. This was changed by his management team and the exercise became a regular occurrence, but with a snag. Its timing and mode were shrouded in secrecy and only a few privileged Nigerians, with links to this clique within the customs got to hear about it and have the opportunity to enlist in the service.

In normal practice, appointment, promotion and discipline, AP&D, of men and officers of the service are handled by the AP&D standing committee of the Service’s Board, which is the policy making organ of the service and it is statutorily headed by the Minister of Finance. But investigations revealed that Dikko who is vice chairman, has a strong influence over this committee and the Board because of the composition of the membership of the Board. With the recent amendment to the customs and Excise Management Act in 1993, serving DCCs and the legal adviser of NCS were seven other external member representing strategic government ministries and parastatals.

Insiders revealed that junior staff recruitment exercise into the service is supervised largely by the management team with DCG Human Resources Development and ACG Headquarters playing prominent roles. This influence over both junior and senior staff recruitment and promotion issue has resulted in the lopsidedness of the men and officers of Northern origin gaining  the upper hand while  the Southern part of the country, especially those from the South East and South West have remained on the receiving end. Many of them, especially those who are on the Superintendent of Customs and Assistant Comptroller of Customs ranks, have stagnated for many years while those Northern officers who were theirs junior few years back, have suddenly flourished to make them at par on same ranks or even above them.

Many of the victimized staff are disillusioned and staff morale is on lowest ebb. In fact, it is causing animosity among colleague who hitherto enjoyed good working and personal relationships. Some retired officials who experienced similar marginalization while in service, are not unmindful of the implication this will have on the psyche and career growth of the present crop of officers, if the situation is not checked.

Ogungbemile, who was retired as acting comptroller of customs after just four months in office in 2003, said he was never confirmed as a substantive CG because he was from the South- West

From 1992, when the service was reorganized in its present structure, and returned to the ministry of finance as revenue collection but para-ministry organization, this had been largely headed  by Northerners. From Brigadier –sole administrator in 1993 till present times, two southerners had only headed the para- military outfit for a total of 10 months: Ogungbemile and Ben Nwadialor for four and six months respectively. Northerners have done 19 years, sometimes uninterrupted.

Naturally, this has helped to solidify the perceived Northern hegemony in the NCS. Unfortunately, the Federal Character Commission, FCC, the watchdog in terms of enforcing that appointments in key MDAs are nationally spread as possible, seems inactive.

Perhaps, the biggest threat to the Dikko legacy is he current acrimonious battle to succeed him. 

 Apart from the fact that the above challenges could handicap the leadership of NCS under Mr. Bashir from achieving the above revenue target, other mandates too could be endangered.

 COMBATING THE CHALLENGES

 Despite the above challenges, Mr Bashir is, no doubt, undaunted. For him, this his is not unusual and insurmountable. He knows that the external environment in which an institution is operating can create both strategic opportunities and threats. But successful strategies are also dependent on the organization having the internal strategic capability required for survival and success. However, to the optimists, the CG is a man of his words.

 The CG’s views are equally shared by some stakeholders too. While it is obvious that these challenges could pose a threat to the service’s mandates, some stakeholders are banking their confidence on the capability of the man in charge of the service.

 Bashir is an experienced and professional officer who has moved across the critical and strategic departments of NCS. This has created optimism around his target and promises from the of the stakeholders.

Their belief is that with his wealth of his experience, skills professionalism and integrity duly considered or factored into his potentialities, there is no cause for any alarm.

This may not be farfetched. Until his appointment, Adeniyi was DCG in charge of Strategic Research and Policy at the Customs Headquarters in Abuja.   

 He served as Customs spokesman for almost two decades until January 2017 when he was redeployed to the Apapa Area Command as a Deputy Comptroller.

He was promoted to the rank of Comptroller in 2017 and appointed Deputy Commandant of the Nigeria Customs Command and Staff College, Gwagwalada, Abuja. In 2019 he was redeployed to serve as the Controller of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Command, Lagos.

He was eventually promoted to the rank of Assistant Comptroller General in February 2020 shortly after he supervised the seizure of $8.07 million cash being illegally taken out of Nigeria through the E-Wing of the international airport tarmac. He was subsequently posted to head the Nigeria Customs Command and Staff College, Gwagwalada, Abuja as Commandant.

In recognition of his service, former President Muhammadu Buhari, on October 11, 2022, conferred the National Honour of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) on Adeniyi.

By virtues of the above strong and impeccable profile, the man is already equipped with critical success ingredients and the capability to strategically position the service by design, idea and experience lenses. In a nutshell, he has what it takes to deliberately position NCS better through a rational, analytic, structured and directive process and reposition the service by virtue of individual and collective experience or through emergence of order and innovation from variety and diversity which exist in and around the service.

 SO FAR SO IMPRESSIVE 

Despite the above challenges, Bashir has not disappointed. So far, the journey has been very smooth and impressive. The Nigerians Custom Service, NCS, has recorded tremendous improvement in performance in the last couple of months. For this, down the road, his admirers are touting him as likely to be one of the best performing CGs ever in Nigeria’s history if the current tempo is sustained.

The question now is: how did he achieve that supersonic growth and  combating the above challenges to live up to the mandates of NCS ?

Some stakeholders are quick to point out some of his achievements which are there for everyone to see.  Along his initial targets include the many training Customs men had undergone and acquisition of equipment and infrastructural development  He is aggressively fighting corruption,nepotism and making the service highly efficient.

Since assumption of office, he has embarked on a digital creative drive towards enhancing Customs’ efficiency, which has manifested in visible and verifiable results.  Adeniyi has also repositioned the NCS by institutionalizing credible leadership with synergies across all levels of operations of the service, bridging the human resource gaps within the ranks, which were hitherto prevalent as he took the leadership mantle.

He had explained: “in order to achieve our objectives, it is imperative that we bridge the current human resource gap within our ranks. We recognize the importance of capacity building and career advancement for our officers. The administration will work diligently to implement career advancement opportunities approved by the board, ensuring that competence remains.”

“The NCS staff welfare,” he reassured, “is of paramount importance to us. We acknowledge the harsh and hostile environment in which our officers and men are compelled to function. Therefore, we commit ourselves to prioritize the welfare and well-being of our personnel. By providing better remunerations, improved accommodation, life insurance, and quality healthcare, we aim to create an environment that supports and motivates our workforce. We understand that a well-motivated team is instrumental in achieving our aims and objectives.”

  He also highlighted the need for collaboration and partnerships. “We value the relationships we have built with our Partner Government Agencies and the private sector. These collaborations have been vital to our adoption of technology as a tool to enhance revenue generation and streamline processes. Adeniyi through his leadership ingenuity has proved the saying that “the single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development.

 On 18 August 2023, under his watch, 50 Officers of Junior (Course 16) graduated from the Nigeria Customs Command and Staff College in Gwagwalada, Abuja. The feat was the commitment of the staff college’s dogged efforts to refine the work efficiency of the Officers and Men of the Nigeria Customs Service through training and re-training,

He further ensured insurance gaps were bridged and additional accommodation were also provided for officers

 The Comptroller-General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi has sustained efforts at mending service delivery gaps, such as the resolution of the long-standing feud within the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA).  He has also engaged in strategic discussions with partners such as the WCO, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the Japan Customs Administration. The discussions aim to garner support for establishing a customs laboratory, a significant milestone in enhancing customs operations and trade facilitation across Nigeria.The NCS laboratory, it must be stated will provide comprehensive solutions to address challenges such as counterfeit goods, smuggling, and non-compliant imports, thereby bolstering revenue generation and ensuring the protection of public health and safety.And with its advanced analytical capabilities, the laboratory is expected to deliver precise identification, verification, and classification of goods, enabling efficient enforcement measures and informed decision-making while fostering an environment of trust and credibility within Nigeria’s trade ecosystem, marking a transformative step towards achieving seamless customs operations, trade competitiveness, and national economic growth in line with the vision of the President Tinubu-led Administration

Reinvigorated by the collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Transport to decongest ports, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation, Magdalene Ajani, and her team paid a visit to the CGC at Customs Headquarters Abuja on 6 July 2023. At the meeting, the Comptroller-General of Customs Bashir Adewale Adeniyi stressed the need to implement policies that create sufficient space at the ports.

 Adeniyi, has commenced a sustainable stakeholder’s parley with sister agencies. And he has personally been to all the zones across the country leaving behind him, unbreakable bonds sealed with MoUs and partnership agreements.

Such bonds are visible with the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the Nigeria Police Force, as well as leaders of neighboring countries that share land borders with Nigeria, amongst others.

Typical of his value filled strides, on Friday, 21st July 2023, during his official visit to Seme, Badagry and its environs, he urged local communities to support Law Enforcement Agencies in enhancing border security. And to enhance safety and community support for officers of the NCS, Adeniyi has heightened community relations initiatives of the NCS. Speaking on enhancing community relations, the CGC said, “Moving forward, we will need your support to engage with members of the border communities in Borno, especially as the insurgency has been degraded. We will build on the good relationship that we have and leverage on it to re-establish a good relationship with Cameroon and, of course, the Southern part of Chad.”

The Comptroller General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi MFR, in a recent move to deepen value creation and engender service delivery, made strategic appointments and announced significant redeployment within the Customs department. They included the appointments of Comptrollers Florence Nanu Ogar-Modey and Queen Ogbudu as Acting Assistant Comptrollers General, Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and Zonal Coordinator Zone B, respectively.

Also, some of the Comptrollers redeployed to various Customs formations, included Compt. Jaiyeoba Jide from Oyo/Osun Area Command to Apapa Area Command, Compt; Dera Nnadifrom Seme to Tin-Can Island Port; Compt. Timi Bomodi from KLT to Seme; Compt. Ahmed Abe from PCA Zone ‘C’ to Kaduna Area Command; and Compt. Babandede Mohammad from Lilypond Export Command to Lagos Free Trade Zone Command

  REVENUE GENERATION AND THE CHALLENGES COMFRONTING THE SERVICE 

   . 

The CG has deployed several initiatives to translate his dreams to reality. These include optimizing revenue collection, plugging revenue leakages, and addressing gaps in the customs clearance process.  

This should not spring any surprises for obvious reasons. When he assumed office at the helm of affairs of the service October last year as the substantive Comptroller General of Customs, Adeniyi vowed to reposition the service to tackle its failure to maximize its capacity in revenue generation and insulate the economy from the menace of smuggling. In less than five months in office, different operational zones across the country have stepped up their ante for improved service delivery to Nigerians.

He also promised to collaborate with stakeholders in an attempt to find lasting solutions to resolve the challenges in cargo clearance procedures

In less than three months as the substantive Comptroller General of Customs, Adeniyi has prioritized efforts in blocking revenue leakages particularly in the context of the Nigeria Customs Service. According to him, this effort aims to improve revenue generation and maximize the remittance of accrued revenue. His role in minimizing revenue leakage is seen as a collective responsibility, and there is recognition of the impact of such efforts on progress and revenue generation. The collaboration between the Nigeria Customs Service and the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) is part of the initiative to curb revenue leakages and boost federal income.

 Recently, he said that improved revenue collection in the second half of the year played a crucial role in significantly reducing the revenue shortfall by 10 per cent from N532 billion to N478 billion last year.

Establishment of RRR Team

In a bid to further strengthen the NCS’s revenue generating capacity, the customs boss, established a Revenue Review Recovery Team, dissolved the existing Strike Force Teams, and streamlined enforcement under the Federal Operations Unit (FOU).

The Revenue Review Recovery Team ‘s primary role is to identify operational inefficiencies, human errors, and fraud. The team was also mandated to focus on recovering lost or uncollected revenues due to these factors, ensuring compliance with customs regulations, laws, and procedures. The team will also ensure that all available income streams are collected and documented, adhering to the relevant customs regulations and laws.

The team tracks and analyzes revenue performance to identify potential bottlenecks or delays that may need attention.

The team was also directed to develop strategies to improve overall performance and recover lost revenue.

Harping on effective stakeholders’ collaboration, the team will work closely with various stakeholders, including customs officers, importers, and exporters, to ensure the successful implementation of revenue recovery strategies

By focusing on these key areas, the Revenue Review Recovery Team aims to optimize revenue collection and contribute to the financial health of the Nigeria Customs Service.

Other notable policy changes included the strategic reassignments of Customs Area Controllers, the creation of an ideas bank, and extensive stakeholder engagements – all of which collectively contributed to the impressive rebound in customs revenue generation last year.

Massive Seizures

Under Adeniyi’s leadership, the NCS has made significant seizures of contraband and illegal items imported or smuggled into the country.

For instance, in Ogun State, the Ogun 1 Area Command seized 1,436 used Pneumatic tyres, 53 sacks, and 569 parcels of Cannabis Sativa, weighing a total of 1,179 kilogrammes, and 3,149 bags of foreign parboiled rice, each weighing 50 kilograms. In July and August 2023, the NCS secured 1,763 seizures worth N11.9 billion to deter smuggling. In October 2023, the NCS reported a total of 1763 seizures worth N11.9 billion in July and August 2023. According to him, these seizures demonstrate the NCS’s commitment to protecting Nigerians from the actions of smugglers and other undesirable elements.

With his supervision, the Nigeria Customs Service, Federal Operations Unit Zone A Ikeja, intercepted imported used cars (Tokunbo), bags of foreign parboiled rice, and other contrabands worth N1.8bn.

The seizures which took place at various times and locations within the border corridors of the South-Western States ensured that other items such as 35,100 liters of premium motor spirit, 1,100 liters of diesel, one 40-foot container carrying 360 bales of used clothes. One 40-foot container containing 150 cartons of ladies’ handbags, 50 bales of nickers, one 20-foot container of unprocessed wood were seized.

Adeniyi also handed over seized illicit drugs to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in Abuja, and also declared an emergency against drug abuse in collaboration with NDLEA. The seizures were 14,340 kilograms of parcel of compressed indian hemp, 660 packs of Tramadol, 225mg, 50 parcels of books, 292 Jumbo sacks, 1,461 compressed Indian Hemp, 1,765 packs of Indian hemp, 960 sacks (1kg each), 2,042 packets of D5 and others.

Officers’ career development

Under his regime, a number of capacity development programmes have been organized locally and internationally for officers. For instance, during the second half of 2023, a total of 6000 officers travelled abroad for different capacity programmes. He also facilitated the completion of the promotion exercise for its staff where over 2,400 officers have benefited from the scheme. Going forward in 2024, the NCS boss said he has a vision of using staff motivation to achieve a N5.1 trillion revenue target.

“We need to motivate our officers a little bit more because the last time we reviewed their salaries was over five years ago and I think we are due for another review and we will also take a second look at some of the allowances. We will also look at exit packages for officers who are retiring so that they will concentrate on the job while they are on active service, “he stated.

Recently in an interview on Arise News Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, Adeniyi said he is working on implementing the new Nigeria Customs Service NCS Act. The NCS Act, 2023, aims to strengthen the capacity of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to achieve fiscal policies of the government and enhance its efficiency and effectiveness.

He added that Customs needs an act that creates the right environment to facilitate trade in its contribution to making Nigeria a profitable trading community.

According to him, some of the provisions in the Act envisage that in 2024 and beyond, his administration will be carrying out more practical efforts to achieve its mandate.

“I talked about initiatives and provisions such as the use of authorized economic operators. This has been provided for and particularly, the Dispute Resolution System to ensure that Customs will not be the accused and the judge in cases that involve importers and agents. We have taken measures to begin implementation of this initiative from the first quarter of 2024,” he said.

Stakeholders’ commendation

Industry stakeholders have applauded the NCS boss, stressing that his performance in just a few months in office showed that President Tinubu made the right choice.

Speaking, the President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Tochukwu Ezeisi, said that freight forwarders are happy for the first time in years because “our issues are being discussed and decisions are taken immediately.”

“Adewale has shown seriousness in achieving his three-point agenda by bringing back this Conference, which is an avenue to listen to stakeholders, and we are ready to always work with the Service.” He added.

On his part, the Deputy President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Kazeem Isa Adua, stated, “The CGC has done well in organizing this Conference and with the positive body language seen today, we should expect a smooth and optimized clearance process soon”.

Similarly, the Secretary General of the Customs Consultative Council, Eugene Nweke, noted that Adeniyi’s appointment is tantamount to placing a round peg in a round hole, given his wealth of experience, training and exposure as a former National Public Relations of the service.

According to him, the appointment is even more strategic given the timing, having come after eight years of imposition of a military officer as the head of a very specialized agency such as the Customs, which came with a lot of distortions in the processes of the service, discontent among the entire workforce and the unfortunate balkanization of the image of the service among the comity of trading nations.

“The appointment of Wale Adeniyi as the substantive CG of Customs came at the most auspicious time to begin to repair and heal the damage of eight years in the psyche of the service. It also came at the time the service needed to be refocused and repositioned among comity of Customs Administrations across the globe, “he said.

However, the customs boss expressed his commitment to revenue generation while also outlining innovative strategies to achieve the NCS’s revenue targets.

  The Nigeria Customs Service had, on Tuesday 13 February, 2024 initiated an engagement with the West Africa Security Project (WASP) to acquaint officers on security awareness for effective trade facilitation and effective border security.

 The CGC, who supported the collaboration between the Nigeria Customs Service and WASP, also described the initiative as a great chance for officers to perform security duties. CGC Bashir outlined some of the benefits of the program to encompass; cargo profiling, small arms and light weapon handling, global shield programs which deals with chemicals and radioactive elements, to share resources with stakeholders for synergy, amongst others.

According to CGC, “there is an existing project managed by the World Bank that looks at the Lagos-Abidjan corridor whose aim is to promote trade facilitation. Bringing in this new project that looks at the security aspect will boost our performances and potent a lot of opportunities for us.”

He added “We will be able to account for 60% of the GDP if we are able to cooperate effectively. This project requires the cooperation and collaboration of all the Customs administrations involved”.

Furthermore, the CGC said that the program also entails field officers brainstorming and exchanging ideas. According to him, it will help officer know convergence of smuggling route to minimize smuggling and trafficking activities.

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