Customs Board Confirms Appointment of DCGs, ACGs; Plans Retreat On Enactment Of New Customs Act

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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.

Ali: CG, Customs

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’’.

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