Wale Adeniyi, A Comptroller-General With The Midas Touch

By Ovie Edomi, Ph.D

Wale Adeniyi, A Comptroller-General With The Midas Touch

Hate or love him, you can not but marvel at the personality of the 14th indigenous Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Mr Adewale Adeniyi, whose appointment as the Comptroller General of Customs on 19th, June, 2023 by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, marked a turning point in the history of the Nigeria Customs Service. Indeed, no Customs boss has enjoyed the enormous goodwill as the current Customs boss in Nigeria Customs Service. Though the position commands so much respect, it equally comes with so much condemnation when one fails to meet the expectations of stakeholders and Nigerians in general.  Somehow in one year Mr Adeniyi has seemingly displayed so much patriotism, courage and quality leadership.

This piece is not to make hero out of the Customs Comptroller General but in my over 30 years of Journalism practice, and with the kind of hard stories l had written in time past about Comptrollers General of Customs, this current Customs boss comes to me as a man that should be encouraged to lead the Nigeria Customs Service with more grace and determination. More grace and support on his part means, to have the full power within the ambit of the Customs Act to carry out reforms that will take the nation out of the woods.

For instance, worried about the pace at which smuggling activities was assuming a different dimension and the way the morale of officers was at the lowest ebb, upon ascending the highest stool of Customs as the Comptroller General of Customs, Adeniyi came up with different approaches to tackling economic saboteurs and all forms of smugglings. He met with Mr President, Governor of Lagos state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu,  the National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu, members of the Senate Committee on Customs and visited traditional rulers in some of the border towns. One of the take aways of the visits to traditional rulers is the plan to establish skill acquisition centres in some of the border towns with Seme as the take off town of the pilot scheme. Coming at a time that most of the policies of the past Comptrollers- General were devoid of human face, owing  to the leadership style of some of the past Customs bosses, the coming of Adeniyi, an astute public relations expert, signalled a rebirth of the service which has been grappling with unfavorable public perception for many years.

Hence the plan to establish a skill acquisition centre in the border towns with Seme as the take off point is one scheme that will help to train several young adults and elderly people and provide them with legitimate sources of income instead of engaging in smuggling  or other illegal businesses.

I personally see this as bringing Human face into carrying out the Customs’ task. More importantly, if the pilot scheme at Seme border is well implemented and extended to other border towns in accordance with the plan, millions of people will be taken off the streets. This will reduce the nation’s unemployment rate and ultimately reduce crime rate

Another laudable effort of the Comptroller General of Customs since his appointment, is the disbandment of the notorious CG strike force and ensuring that the core values of the Federal Operations Units ( FoUs) of the service is restored. He has also enhanced professionalism in the Customs Service. Only recently, some Area Controllers with the approval of Mr Adeniyi, had a meeting with independent petroleum products marketers at different locations where they were told in clear terms that taking petroleum products in gallons out of the country is economic sabotage and won’t be tolerated by the Service.There are grapevine reports that smuggling of petroleum products across the border towns has been on the decline since Mr Adeniyi came on board with a matching order to the Area Comptrollers to stop all forms of economic sabotages. To further give fillip to the fight against economic sabotage, the Customs boss in trying to ensure that illicit drugs do not find their way into our streets via the nation’s ports to the hands of criminal elements, a development that poses great danger to our country and to national security, the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service has through his loyal men discovered how unscrupulous bonded terminal operators and a network of Customs agents collaborate with bad eggs in the Customs to facilitate clearance of drug shipments from the nation’s ports. Only recently, a whopping seizure of 1,072 kilograms of Cannabis indica and other pharmaceutical drugs worth N4.1 billion was made.

It is believed that under Adeniyi, the Nigeria Customs Service has reinforce the operation of Officers to the extent that those who undermine the system in time past and those who collaborate with Officers to swindle the country for decades are no longer having a field day.

In Nigera, the greatest potential is the human capital.  And Adeniyi has decided that he and his management team will stop at nothing to develop the human capital of the Nigera Customs Service. Aside from the training and re-training of officers, recruitment of more personnel into the Customs will further consolidate the efforts of the President Bola Tinubu’s administration towards rebuilding the country.

Adeniyi’s recent visit to China has equally helped to change  the country’s perception about Nigeria. It is believed that this will further  cement mutual relationships between both countries. Thus the  Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that the Nigera Customs boss signed with the General Administration of Customs of the Peoples Republic of China (GACC) will foster bilateral relationship for the enhancement of economic growth

This is the hallmark of quality leadership

on the part of the 14th indigenous Comptroller-General of Customs and 31st since its establishment in 1891.

We need to appreciate President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for the  appointment of Adewale Adeniyi, in line with the  Nigerian Customs Service Act, Section 14(1)(a) of the Act,  which states that “The President shall appoint a career officer from the Service, not below the rank of Assistant-Comptroller General who shall be responsible for the overall management of the Service and be accountable for all revenue collections and all expenditures made under this Act”.

It  would be recalled that Adeniyi was promoted from Comptroller to 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. Since that  display of patriotism in the course of his duty and his subsequent posting to Nigeria Customs Command and Staff College, Gwagwalada, Abuja as Commandant, it became clearer than ever before that he is an agent of change.

There are certainly over 350 ethnic groups in Nigeria and in this diversity as a pluralistic and secular society, we know that no tribe is more important than the other  but in our march to nationhood, we must encourage excellence, allow as well as support our best eleven to be at the helm of affairs in the nation’s agencies, institutions and in the para-military as well as the army, navy and police force. True patriotism entails supporting government officials and those in the private sector that are patriotic in the course of carrying out their jobs. I think that it is in recognition of Adeniyi’s service to the country, that former President Muhammadu Buhari, on October 11, 2022, conferred him with the national honour of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR).

Indeed, Nigera needs more patriotic compatriots to lead this country at all levels as is being demonstrated by the current Customs boss. If more public officials can join the fold, the President Bola Tinubu’s hope agenda will in no time make more meaning and bring us greater hope.

Dr. Edomi, Publisher/ Editor-in-Chief South South International Magazine, former President, League of Maritime Editors and former Publicity Secretary, Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigera writes from Lagos.

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