Fwdr (Dr) Eugene Nweke, President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) and Chief Executive Officer, Virtues Marine and Freight Services Limited, evaluates the six-year tenure of the Immediate Past Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Dr Abdullahi Dikko and sets an agenda for the service to achieve more.
AS THE NATIONAL PRESIDENT OF NAGAFF, CAN WE HAVE YOUR EVALUATION OF THE SIX-YEAR TENURE OF THE IMMEDIATE PAST COMPTROLLER-GENERAL OF NIGERIA CUSTOMS SERVICE, ALHAJI ABDULLAHI DIKKO INDE?
As the National President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders – NAGAFF, I wish to use this medium to emphasis and posit in strong terms, our official position on the recent developments relating to the voluntary resignation from office by the former Comptroller General of Customs, Dr Alhaji Abdullahi Diko Inde, and to evaluate his six years tenure in office. I want to state in clear terms why we stood by our decision to air our views on a likely replacement and setting a possible agenda for the incumbent comptroller- general.
You also, know that I am the National Vice Chairman of the Customs Consultative Committee (CCC). Permit me to make a preamble by stating that NAGAFF as a professional body is deeply involved in Public Policy Advocacy and will never lose sight of its corporate aims and objectives in relation to Public Advocacy. Hence, we cannot compromise our stand point of deploying constructive discussion, engagement, propagation and the promotion of the rule of law by resorting to Dialogue and Responsible Partnership in achieving collective objectives that will foster even development in the Maritime Sector at all times.
Above all, we are also committed to Consultation and Collaboration with Critical stakeholders in the Industry, with the aim of championing a new course that, will strategically open up the port system for even competition and friendly business port environment.
It is against this background, that, I wish to reiterate and express NAGAFF’s advocacy pact with the Nigeria Customs Service under the able leadership of Dr Alhaji Abdullahi Diko Inde.
This is to underscore the fact that this pact and path is not limited but even with other critical agencies and stakeholders in the International Trade Supply Chain. This is to bring to fore the importance of going into Responsible Partnership, Strategic Alliance and Collaboration toward achieving Collective Set-Goals in modern corporate administration.
WHAT ROLE DID YOUR ASSOCIATION PLAY IN FACILITAING THE REALISATION OF THE SIX-POINT AGENDA OF THE FORMER C-G, DR ABDULAHI DIKKO INDE?
During our Courtesy visit to the former Comptroller General of Customs and the Customs Management Team on Thursday, November 12, 2009, we posited to the Management Team as Follows:
We told the former C-G that we were not unmindful of the strategic role of the Nigeria Customs Service as a catalyst not only for national economic growth and development but also of the security and promotional roles the service played. As critical stakeholders involved in Customs functions, we told the former C-G that his appointment was a great opportunity to contribute in re-inventing a service built strictly on professionalism, discipline, sincerity and most of all, one which is corruption free.
It is our desire to see a highly-professional service where there is high morale within the rank and file and one that is responsive to the economic aspirations of Nigeria and global trade facilitation.
The former CGC’s six-point Agenda for the transformation of the service was a reflection of the determination of the management team to bequeath to Nigeria a vibrant and enviable customs. This was against the fact that the responsibilities of customs administrations were now becoming more complex, and had now transcended revenue collection, border controls, security and anti-smuggling.
We said during our maiden visit to Dikko that we were glad that issues revolving around trade facilitation and maintenance of the international trade supply and security chain were also articulated in the six-point point agenda of the former CGC.
While reaffirming our unflinching support for the Customs management team, we stated categorically that we had resolved to be the vanguard of re-inventing a new customs service for our great country Nigeria.
We assured the former C-G that as a professional body, we would continue to enlighten our members and the trading public on the need to support this administration by abiding with the rules and regulations governing international trade and customs clearance in Nigeria.
It was our belief that effective and efficient clearance of goods increased the participation of national industries in the global market place and contributed significantly to the economic competitiveness of nations, encouraged investment and development of industries. Effective clearance of goods will also increase the participation of Small and Medium Enterprises in international trade.
As a public policy advocate and from our practical experience in the field as freight forwarders, we had decided to crystallize our observation, challenges and recommendations into a position paper, which we believe would assist the service in achieving its vision, mission and the six-point agenda for the transformation of the service. .
During the visit, we also advised the former CGC and the management team, that from our observation, in the past, the Customs was seen as one happy family and we expect that spirit to continue as the service collectively work relentlessly to consolidate on the various reform programmes put in place by government for the complete transformation and modernisation of the service.
We advised the former CGC not to be distracted but to rather see this from another angle as the needed tonic to work harder and prove skeptics wrong so that at the end, the nation and indeed all Nigerians would be better off in terms of transformation of our living standards.
QUESTION: WHAT WERE THE SPECIFIC ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE IMMEDIATE PAST CGC?
We are glad to note that the former CGC worked assiduously in the right direction and we noticed progressive changes and improvements in the service in the last six years.
The following achievements really showed that our Responsible Partnership, Strategic Alliance and Collaboration with the Management team ably lead by Dikko Inde was a huge success, hence, we scored him 75 per cent
His achievements include: The Purchase of 120 Units 3 Bed Room detached duplexes Housing Estate, commissioned by His Excellency, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan; purchase of 400 units of Toyota Hilux Van for Border Patrol Operations and the purchase of 3800 AK 47 Riffles with ammunition for Anti-Smuggling Operations.
The immediate past CGC was elected Vice Chairman of World Customs Organization (WCO) West and Central Africa Region; Chairman, African Region of Customs Administration and Chairman, ECOWAS Customs Administrations, while 12, 380 personnel were undergoing series of training.
The Dikko’s administration purchased uniforms and it distributed three pairs each to officers and men of the service free of charge. It constructed 21 blocks for 30 man rank and file accommodation for Junior Officers to accommodate 630 officers all over the Country.
He hosted the Policy Commission Meeting (the highest decision making body of the WCO). The Meeting, which was attended by fifty two (52) Heads of Customs Administrations, was the first of its kind in the Sub-Sahara Africa. The meeting served as an avenue to boost investment opportunities in Nigeria.
One can also recall his assent to the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC) in June 2012.
He constructed the Command and Staff College, Gwagwalada, which was commissioned by the former President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. The Collage has been adopted by the WCO as a Regional Training Centre for West and Central Africa. He also did the completion of State of the Art Printing Press powered by Minolta.
Part of Dikko’s achievements was the construction of Residential Housing Estate for the Comptroller-General and members of the Management Team. The construction of a first class hospital at Karu. The recruitment of 10,144 youths comprising degree holders, HND, OND/NCE, WAEC and drivers from 2009 to date, to boost the workforce of the service.
Dikko also mid-wifed the signing of Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) as a working relationship with Customs Administration of South Africa, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Bulgaria, China, Canada, United States of Africa, India, Hong Kong, Argentina, Japan, Netherlands. He ensured the purchase of 10 units of 43-Seater buses to help alleviate transportation problem of officers and men of the service.
There was also collaboration with the National Open University of Nigeria and Kaduna State University to boost capacity building of junior officers in the service, thereby giving hope to junior officers to move from Inspectorate Cadre to Superintendent Cadre. Dikko also kicked off the construction of the Corporate Headquarters of the Service, which is above 80 per cent completion stage.
CJ4 Patrol Jet to boost anti-smuggling operations of the service was commissioned by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy on August 31, 2012. He made possible the purchase of two (2) Bullet Proof Sea Vessels for anti- smuggling operations of the service. These vessels could accommodate 29 officers on board and could stay in water for 2 weeks.
Other achievements recorded by Dikko were: the training of 200 Special Anti-Terrorism Squad by expert instructors from South Africa to prepare them for the challenges of the recent developments in the North East of the Country. The Training of 800 Special Squad by School of Military Police, Basawa, Zaria, with a view to giving them endurance training to fully combat the menace of smuggling across our borders.
He also equipped the Special Anti-Terrorism Squad with requisite military training to support their military colleagues. There was also 100 per cent salary increase for officers and men of the Service as a motivation for enhanced performance. He resuscitated the moribund Customs Officers Wives Association (COWA) and empowered its members through skill acquisition programmes.
Dikko perfected the automation of cargo clearance procedures to enhance trade facilitation between Nigeria and her trading partners, in line with international best practices. The aim is also to do away with the old tradition of having personal contact with Customs officers to avoid compromising government’s revenue.
He carried out a Review of Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) to accommodate the feelings of the New World Economic Order. He also established Forensic Units in the Nigeria Customs in collaboration with ICPC officials. This is aimed at positioning NCS toward checkmating economic crimes, thereby safeguarding government’s revenue.
There was also the Automation of Human Resource Management Procedure.
The Service also established Strategic Mutual Collaboration with the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) to checkmate smuggling and registration of non-Customs Cleared Vehicles.
There was also Interface with other government agencies to ensure strict compliance with Nigerian Trade Policy and Security concern. Dikko as well developed Nigerian Trade Hub – A trade facilitation tool, especially in the areas of e-documentation and Single Window. This is aimed at educating the trading public on rules guarding trade in Nigeria.
Most remarkable too is the successful take-over of Destination Inspection Regime through Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) – a key function of the Nigeria Customs Service which was concessioned to service providers for decades.
There was also the development of the State of the Art Ruling Centre to drive the PAAR applications; and the provision of technical aides to nine other Customs administration of smaller countries within the West and Central Africa Region, especially in the area of boosting the ASYCUDA system and enhancing the anti-smuggling operations.
There was also the Technical Collaboration meeting with the Customs Administration of Cameroun, Chad, Niger, and Republic of Benin in order to curb proliferation of arms and ammunition. The aim is to ensure that international accepted transit procedures, which provides that goods on transit should be tracked in line with ISPS -Code Provision.
During DIkko’s tenure, the Average Monthly Revenue Collection was N100 billion and the recovery of evaded government revenue from corporate smugglers in high places. The era of Dikko also witnessed high seizures and intercepted contraband.
WHAT IS YOUR AGENDA FOR THE ACTING COMPTROLLER-GENERAL OF CUSTOMS?
My view is very simple, from personal interactions and involvements, I have no doubt in my mind that the Nigeria Custom Service of today has an array of educated, professionally-trained, intelligent, committed, bold officers of sound mind and officers prepared to lead. What is remaining is having a good team work (Management Team) that will work with a common objective. A standard has been set by the Dikko-led management team, it can only be better and more.
Sincerely speaking, I must state here that the present Management team has laid a very solid foundation for future progress and development of the service. The Acting Comptroller-General only need to adopt Team Work and willing to sustain and improve on some of the achievements stated above and strive to do more. This is by opening up a new horizon, looking at the dynamism of the International trade environment.
Operationally speaking, the Nigeria Customs Modernisation efforts should be accelerated further with regards to the achievements stated above.
Stakeholders are looking forward that the NCS – NICIS should be strengthened to give impetus to the much-anticipated National Single Window that will promote total Automation and Central information Warehouse for our Port/Trade System.
The Ruling Centre of Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) platform applications should be improved upon to be interactive, so as to accommodate the Article 20 – Agreed Customs Valuation (ACV) applications as domesticated and provided in the General Agreement Of Trade and Tariff – GATT.
Enhanced Integrity training programme for the recruited young officers should be sustained to instill discipline and moral development. The WCO administrative theme of “People, Partnership and Political Support (3P’s), should be imbibed.
There should be close working relationship and cooperation by the service with Mr President, among others.
I am particularity happy that, any of the Management Team that will act in the capacity of the out going CGC is not a novice to NCS administration. Therefore, DCG John Atte, being a member of the wining Team, is not a mistaken reliable hand to act in that capacity pending the decision of Mr. President Federal Republic. Recall that, the success story of the out going CGC was anchored on the spirit of “understanding and one happy family”, which prevailed within the Management Team.
DCG Atte, will always consult where and when necessary, he is one man I know, that doesn’t not claim monopoly of wisdom and knowledge.
WHAT WOULD YOU CONCLUDE WITH AS WE DRAW THE CURTAIN ON THIS INTERVIEW?
Dikko and his Management Team were human, perfection is not within their monopoly, so whatever administrative short comings were noticed, the Zeal and achievements recorded overwhelmed those shortcomings. As such, we score them 80 per cent for the six-point agenda aggressively pursued and implemented and 6 per cent on the Job General Performance.
The needful has been achieved- Consolidation, Consolidation is the key word ahead.
Finally, our doors are always open for strategic alliance, collaboration and responsible partnership. I wish the NCS well. Thanks for the opportunity to express myself.