By Stephen Ubanna
Barely two months in office, Adewale Adeniyi a former National Public Relations Officer, NPRO, of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS and the now the Comptroller General, has demonstrated that he is well prepared for the job and will eventually turn out to be one of the best in the annals of Customs history.
This is evident going by his actions and policy statements since assumption of office on June 19, 2023, and based on his findings and observations which appears to have impressed the officers and won the heart of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, that he has given him the free hand to re-engineer the service as obtained in other parts of the world where Customs operations have been well established in the best practices of the World Customs Organisation, WCO.
As a prelude to ascertaining the basic problems of the service and improving the synergy with other sister security Organisations, the no nonsense Customs Comptroller General Adeniyi who was said to have worked under four past Comptroller Generals of the service, including Late Adbullahi Dikko and Hameed Ali , an Army Colonel ,rtd, had set the stage by dissolving the service adhoc anti-smuggling team, labelled Comptroller General of Customs, CGC, Task Force , which was said to be competing for relevance with the Legitimate Federal Operations Unit, duly established to tackle the anti-smuggling operations across the country.
He may not have allowed the Border drill, established under the Leadership of the National Security Adviser, NSA, to exist in its present form to avoid stepping on toes. The Customs Comptroller General may have given his words to stakeholders that there was no cause for alarm when he promised that ‘’technology and innovative ideas will be deployed during his Administration to advance operations’’. True to his word, h e has kept to it.
He may have set the stage rolling with a visit to the Nigerian President to brief him on the vision and strategy to shore up the service revenue and tackle the activities of contraband smugglers under his Leadership last July. Given that not all the closed orders with the neighbouring countries of Benin Republic, Niger and the Central African country of Cameroun , by former President Muhammadu Buhari has been reopened for business may have informed why the Customs helmsman had told the President that ‘’there is currently a process ongoing to review the situation ‘’, noting that the status quo of the partial closure of the Landers still stands. He may have opened up to get the attention of the Lagos state born Nigerian Leader to reopen the yet to be opened closed borders.
He has said to have also visited Nuhu Ribadu, an Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG, rtd, and former Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and now National Security Adviser, NSA, to President Tinubu, as part of the collaborative strategies ‘’to address some of the challenges associated with the manning of Nigeria’s vast landers’’.
He was emphatic on the reasons for the visit to the NSA ‘’to fashion out the best way to tackle the menace of smuggling which has adverse effects on the nation’s economy and security’’. He was said to have equally visited Kayode Egbetokun, acting Inspector General of Police, IGP, as part of the inter-agencies’ cooperation and collaboration ‘’ to fast -track sustainable working relationships between the the NCS and the Force to ensure adequate security of lives and properties in the nation’s border Communities and its environs.
He had expressed the commitment of the service to join forces with other sister security agencies’’ to fight the challenges of insecurity across the country, particular, the Land border areas’’.
This may have informed why t he had visited Jibia border community in Katsina, home state of former President Buhari, on Friday, August 4, 2023, to enforce full compliance with the Authority of Heads of States and Government of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, on border closure directive due to the recent overthrow of a democratically elected government Of detained President Mohammed Bazoum in Niamey, the Niger Republic Capital.
The Customs Chief who is always on the red alert to respond to challenges was said to have told Dikko Umar, the state governor, who was said to have been represented by Farouk Lawal, the Deputy governor, who had received him at the Government House that the visit to the border community was intended ‘’ to solicit their cooperation’’, stressing that the regional bloc border closure was not implemented by the service ‘’to witch-hunt the businesses of transborder traders’’.
escribing ‘’the obstruction as a temporary measure’’, he was said to have told the Katsina state governor that the borer closure did not affect the Jibia border alone but all the border communities in the north western states of Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, and the north western states of Kwara, Niger, including the two north eastern states of Borno and Yobe among others .
Until the visit to the Jibia border, he had visited Seme-Krake joint border community, between Nigeria and Benin Republic, where he had told the stakeholders and the local residents that ‘’the reopening of border community for businesses depends on the readiness of the residents to cooperate with the Customs personnel and other security agencies operatives in combating smuggling’’.
He was said to have made it clear to the people that that the Customs and the other security agencies operatives need information from the local ommunities to effectively contain the nefarious activities of the unrepentant smugglers.
Only recently, the Customs comptroller General and some of his Management Team members, were at Idiroko border, in Ogun, home state of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Abudullahi Maiwada, a Chief Superintendent and Customs spokesperson had said that he took advantage of the visit ‘’ to pledge improved Customs – Community relations to enhance the country’s improved vast border security’’ which is vital in the discharge of their anti-smuggling mandates’’.
The Customs Comptroller General, who spoke to Oba John Olakunle Ojo, the Oniko of Idiroko Kingdom, Oba Yisa Adeniyi Adelukun Olaniyan , the Ikokia of Ikokia Kingdom, and Oba Kihinde Adegboye Gbadewole Olugbenle , the Oba of Ilaro, on Sunday, August 6, 2023, was said to have ‘’solicited the support of the Ogun state border community Leaders and their Paramount rulers to ensure the success of the service operations in the state.
The Oba of Ilaro, may have gladdened the heart of the Customs boss, when he declared that ‘’ members of his community ,like all other border communities across the country have a significant role ‘’to lay in helping the Customs and other security agencies personnel in the discharge of their duties as ‘’regards national security’’.
The Customs Chief who could not hide his feelings was said to have made it clear to the prominent traditional rulers visited in Ogun state, that Idiroko is very strategic to the service operations’’. He was said to have also stated that that ‘’ all other border Communities around the Idiroko axis’’ represent strategic gateway to the country’s trade and the economic development for national security management ‘’ as well. He was said to have made the Traditional rulers and the other Community Leaders to understand that ‘’the Customs and other security agencies operatives have a collective mandate ‘’ to ensure and enhance national security ‘’, stressing that ‘’the service sees every criminal element sabotaging the nation’s economy as an enemy of the state first and foremost’’ before we can talk about the Customs mandate of anti-smuggling operations, human and drug trafficking and all that’’.
This may have informed why he has charged the Communality Leaders to channel their reactions appropriately to the government, stressing that’’ the new Administration would grant a listening ear to them and make amendments to policies where necessary while also soliciting their support’’.