The Man At The Customs House

By Ben Oramalugo

The Man At The Customs House. By Ben Oramalugo

 

It is no gainsaying that the Nigeria Customs Service has witnessed an unprecedented leap since Bashir Adewale Adeniyi assumed office as the Comptroller General of Customs on June 25 2023. One cannot but applaud him for the success achieved in his brief tenure. His reforms have introduced new impetus and dynamism into customs administration in the country to the extent that many observers including foreign bodies have likened the present effort to a revolution. Revolution may be dramatic or traumatic. It could also occur through system activation of particular decisions, policies and programmes by an informed leadership. It is obvious that there has been a radical change in customs administration and we can date our observation of change from June 2023. The leader of this historical event is Mr. Adeniyi. The decisions taken by Bashir Adewale Adeniyi are varied, profound, touchy and cataclysmic.

Evidence of Adeniyi’s administration’s commendable performance in this vital sector abound in many areas. Under Adeniyi’s leadership, the agency has made significant growth in revenue collection. The NCS generated N1.34 trillion in the first quarter of 2024 despite N318 billion loss to waivers. This represented 122.35% increase in revenue when compared to the same period the previous year. The attainment of this feat is attributable to several strategic initiatives. In less than three months of taking over the mantle of leadership, Mr. Adeniyi prioritized efforts in blocking revenue leakages. The success story of the Revenue Review Performance Recovery Team is worth mentioning. For instance, N15 billion was recovered by the Revenue Review Performance Recovery exercise. Similarly, N2.3 billion was recovered from the 90-day window for the regularization of the documents of uncustomed vehicles and N1.5 billion was recovered from the decongestion of 1,705 containers and 981 vehicles from the port.

Under Adeniyi’s leadership, the NCS also made significant strides in enhancing trade facilitation in the past one year through the decongestion of ports and the reopening of previously inaccessible access road. Another notable initiative towards trade facilitation is the designation of dedicated terminal for exports, which has yielded significant gains. This has facilitated the processing of exports through the Lilypond command. With this development, the number of Single Goods Declarations (SGDs) in transactions handled by this terminal has increased from 317 to 7464 accounting for 19.49% of the total 38294 export transactions recorded in 2023. In February 2024, the NCS launched an extensive Time Release Study meant to identify bottlenecks in the clearance process. Besides, he introduced what is called the Advanced Ruling System, which holds customs officers accountable for whatever their position is on pre importation request. This a notable stride as it aligns the NCS operations with global best practices in line with recommendations of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. The recent ranking under the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council attest to the commitment of NCS under the headship of Adeniyi to trade facilitation. In the latest assessment, NCS has risen to the 6th position out of 52 MDAs for efficiency and transparency.

In his first year of stewardship, the anti-smuggling activities has been pursued vigorously. The agency tactical operations have led to record breaking seizures in the last one year. These successes are not mere statistics, they represent a substantial blow to the underground economy. Interestingly, Mr Adeniyi has set in motion plans to jettison the crude method of anti-smuggling tactics and rely more on the deployment of technology to maximize performance and minimize casualties. As part of his strategies to curb smuggling in the country, Mr. Adeniyi has organized meetings with major government stakeholders and traditional rulers in some border towns. Unlike his predecessors, he has added human face to the fight against smuggling in the country. Clear indication is his proposed plan to establish a skill acquisition centre in the border towns with Seme as a takeoff point. This is meant to provide sources of livelihood for both the young adults and elderly people instead of engaging in smuggling or other illegal business.

One of the cornerstone of Adeniyi’s success is his investment in capacity building and professional development. Recognising that a well-trained and adequately equipped workforce is essential for effective customs administration. Since June 2023 extensive capacity development programmes have been organized both locally and internationally for officers. Between June and December 2023 about 6000 officers travelled abroad for different capacity programmes. He also facilitated the completion of the promotion exercise for over 2400 staff. In addition, there are ongoing plans for staff salary review.

Mr. Adeniyi has also continued to implement measures that would address national security issues. This was achieved through the strengthening and reinforcing of the Federal Operating Unit to pursue, intercept, arrest and dismantle smuggling networks. He dissolved the existing strike force teams that constituted the multiple layers of enforcement into the recognized structure of the Federal Operating Unit. He has also enhanced intelligence sharing to tackle security related issues.

Under his reign, the NCS has continued to promote collaboration with traditional and new stakeholders both locally and internationally. He has revived the moribund Comptroller General of Customs Conference. The event was held in December 2023 and brought together a wide range of stakeholders.

Recognising the role of diplomacy as an instrument of transformational change, Mr. Adeniyi has collaborated with the international community with a view to aligning customs operations with global best practices and optimum delivery of service. The NCS under his watch has completed two working agreements with customs administration of the Republic of Benin to address the gap that sustains activities of smugglers and revenue leakage. He also visited China where he signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the General Administration of Customs of the Peoples Republic of China. Mr. Adeniyi also partnered with Japanese government to establish a Laboratory for Nigeria Customs. The NCS has also collaborated with the World Customs Organisation in his attempt at modernization and reforms of customs administration in the country.

It is gratifying to say that the great joy and exhilaration that welcome the appointment of Bashir Adewale Adeniyi in June 2023 as the Comptroller General of NCS by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu did not turn to sadness after one year in office. This attest to the fact that Mr. Adeniyi is the man the cap fits to provide the leadership at that point in the history of NCS. He has displayed in his first year a high level professionalism as well as courage and passion to transform the NCS. Besides, his unique leadership style has changed the unfavourable public perception of the NCS. This is not a surprise in view of his antecedent as a public relations expert.

 

BEN ORAMALUGO PhD, FCIA, FNIM, is the Area Controller Oyo/Osun Command and author of the book ” Customs Administration in Nigeria “.

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