By Stephen Ubanna
For much of last month and now, there have been rumours making the rounds in Customs circles that Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, has shortlisted Comptroller Olakunle Oloyede, Area Controller, Tin can Island Command and some other Comptrollers to be presented to the 57the Board meeting to be presided over by Hajia Zainab Ahmed , minister of Finance , Budget and National Planning, who incidentally is Chairperson of the Customs Board for approval as acting Assistant Comptroller Generals.
Aware that about 80% of the present Management of the service may go with him after the May 29, 2023 hand over date by President Muhammadu Buhari, to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos state and the President-elect on the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, may have informed why the Customs Comptroller General may have shelved the idea. This is to avoid pushing them to early retirement and further deplete the service of experienced officers who could still direct its operations in the years ahead.
Unknow to many, the Customs Comptroller General, has a different agenda: to ensure that the five acting DCGs and the 15 ACGs, appointed last December were confirmed by the Board in order for those that may not be retained by the new government to leave with their full entitlement from office.
Abdulahi Maiwada, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and the, NCS, spokesperson in a statement had listed the names of the five DCGS, whose appointments were confirmed by the Customs Board to include Mohammed Abba-kura, overseeing, Department of Enforcement , Inspection and Investigation, AG.Saidu, Human Resources Development, JP.Njoku, Excise, Free Trade Zones and Industrial Incentives, Adewale Adeniyi, Strategic Research and Policy and GA. Commander Training and Doctrine Command.
For the acting ACGs, who got their appointment confirmed at the 57th Customs Board meeting, according to CSC, Maiwada, were O.Peters, Zonal Coordinator, Zone C, with Headquarters in PortHarcourt, Capital of Rivers state, IO.Babalola, Zonal Coordinator , Zone D, with Headquarters in Bauchi, AI.Alfa, Strategic Research and Policy, HJ Women, Excise, Free Trade Zones and Incentives and KC.Egwu, Doctrine Development and Administration.
Others were MBA Musa, Tariff and rade, A. Dappa-Williams, Enforcement, Inspections and Investigation, Bello Mohammed Jibo, Headquarters, A. Hamisu, Commandant, Nigerian Customs and taff College, Gwagwalad, FCT, Y.Salihu, Finance and Administration and Malanta Ibrahim Yusuf , Training and Coordination.This is in addition to SA. Bomai, Customs Board, C.K. Niagwan, Technical Services, KI.Adeola, ICT/Moderdernisation, and BU.Nwafor, Human Resources Development.
An appreciative Hajia Ahmed, the minister of Finance , may have used opportunity of the Customs Board meeting to express her delight at the outcome of the stewardship of the service Board over the last seven years , noting that ‘’ it has been a very interesting and rewarding experience for her as the chairperson ‘’.
She noted that within the period she has chaired the Customs Board, it has witnessed ‘’significant improvement in terms of operations of the service’’. The minister asserted that the Board had cause ‘’to secure several Presidential approvals for the service including enhancement of Staff remuneration and improvement in terms of cost of collections for the service’’.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had approved a seven percent cost of collections for the service and four percent for the Federal Inland Revenue., FRIS, as a way to encourage the revenue generating agencies to improve on their monthly revenue collections.
It could not be ascertained the percentage that was secured for the service this time around by the Hajia Ahmed led Customs Board as the costs of collection for the service. Unconfirmed report disclosed that the minister had used her position to secure a highter percentage cost of collection for the service which a source had put at 10%.
She may have gladdened the heart of the officers when she revealed that that the Board was also able ‘’to complete the process towards the realization of the rollout of the Trade Modernization Project’’, describing it as a fundamental building blocks that are going ‘’ to work positively towards enhancing and modernizing the entire service in operations in line with the requirements of the World Customs Organisation, WCO and other Protocols that Nigeria is committed to’’.
Indeed, for the Modernisation Project which is worth $3.2 billion, that was aid to have earlier been awarded by the government to Messrs Adani Mega Systems Limited, /Webb Fontaine, but re-awarded to Messrs E- Customs HC Project Limited, an Asian country of China firm and which has been ratified by the Ahmed Lawan led Senate, Ali, the Customs helmsman had said that the service would generate a mouth watery sum of $176 billion over the next 20 years through the implementation of the e-Cutoms project.
He has made it clear to those that cares to listen that the e-Customs Concession project would ease the cost of doing business at the nation’s seaports, boost the service revenue, enhance productivity and stop every arbitrariness in the service.
The Customs boss, who sees the e-Customs as one of his pet projects in the service had said that the $3.2 billion project would be financed by the African Finance Corporation, AFC, and managed by Hawei Technologies Limited under a 20 –year Concession window, noting that when fully implemented, it would quadruple the current Customs monthly revenue collection of N210 billion.
Addressing the future generation of officers, Hajia Ahmed, emphaised the need for the engagement of young officers including women into the service. As a prelude to winding up, the Customs Board, it was gathered has approved ‘’the implementation of a Competency -Based Accelerated Career Progression Plan, CBACPP’’.
Given an insider information, the Customs National Public Relations Officer, had said that ‘’the plan is a proactive strategy designed to close the generational gap that could lead to Leadership vacuum in the higher hierarchies of the service in the future if not addressed’’.
With the appointment of a retired military officer by the out-going Nigerian President to head the service over the last seven years, which many did not find funny, may have informed why the Board members were unanimous in giving kudos to the President for signing into Law the new Customs Bill passed by the National Assembly which has made it mandatory that the next Comptroller General of Customs must be appointed from the ACG rank. This is bad news for the politicians, particular, retired senior military officers who have positioned themselves to succeed Ali, a non-career Customs officer and the incumbent Comptroller General.
The enactment of the New Customs Act, may have emboldened Hajia , Ahmed, who could not hide her feelings to say that the Board has made plans to organize a retreat for the Board members and the expanded Management of the NCS.
The Customs Board Chairperson , had said that with the planned retreat, stakeholder education and engagement forum will be launched ‘’ to inform the public about the provisions of the New Act and the corresponding compliance requirement, noting thatthe aim is to ensure clarity and understanding among stakeholders, enabling them to adapt to the new regulations effectively’’.
The Value News could not ascertain the effective date for the implementation of the New Custom Act but the out- going minister of Finance , Budget and National Planning , had aid that ‘’the effective date for the full implementation of the Act is a priority that will be addressed in due course’’.
In a related development , Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, who has a clear Presidential mandate in 2015, to reform the service and ensure an increased revenue collection and who stakeholders believe had performed above expectation , was said to have congratulated the newly confirmed DCGs and ACGs and charged them ‘’to work diligently for a better and prosperous service’’.
The Customs Comptroller General was said to have reminded the newly confirmed DCGs and ACGs , of their role in achieving the service core functions of ‘’revenue collections. Suppression of smuggling and trade facilitation’’.