By Stephen Ubanna
Those who think that with the redeployment of Musa Baba Abdullahi, from Tin- can Island Command To Customs Headquarter Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT would open the door way for fraudulent importers with their agents at the tina Island port would be disappointed.
This is because Compt. Adekunle Oloyede, who had replaced him, had used his Information Communication Technology, ICT, Modernisation and Risk Management back ground to his advantage to reengineer and reposition the Command.
. Although, Loyede had assumed duties at the Command at a time the Chapter Executives of the Associations of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, and their Counterparts at the Port Multi- servces Terminal Limed, PTML, and Port and Cargo Terminals including other Associations, at the port, had had dragged out their members ‘’to protest the Federal government introduction and implementation of the Vehicle Identification Number VIN’’.
The Agents had paralysed the Tincan Island port and the two terminals operating within the port axis, insisting that’’ the government must return’’ to the status quo to tallow them take delivery of their vehicles without any additional costs’’.
Compt. Oloyede, who many had been described as an ICT, expert in Customs circles, may have seen the agents protest s an opportunity ‘’to bring out the best in him to douse the tension’’. The Customs Comptroller was said to have held various meetings with the Leadership of the various Associations of he agents, at the port to give them an insider information about the workings of the VIN policy and the need to return to work. The Chapter Executives of the various of the agents Associations at the port in turn were said to have passed the message from the Customs Comptroller to their members to calm the situation.
The Customs Comptroller,, was said to have made the agents to understand that ‘’the VIN policy was in ‘’line with the modernization of the service clearing processes at the port’’, by giving them an insider information about ‘’the gains of automation in VIN implementation to heir clearing business’’. He was said to have also told the aggrieved agents that ‘’the policy will bring about uniformity of value for all imported vehicles into the country across all Customs Formations nation-wide’’. The good news about the VIN, he had said was that with the implementation of the e-payment, will bring an end to the era of physical contact between officers and agents that that would end complaints of extortions at the ports.
He may have taken advantage of the agents protest to come up with a three point agenda for the Command: Discipline, Trade Facilitation and improved revenue generation. As an ICT officer who knows his onions, he has discovered new Areas where the Command could generate more revenue as he was said to have used his automation knowledge to block all areas of revenue leakage at the port.
Moreso, he has enjoined his officers to demonstrate high level of Professionalism in the discharge of their duties as he will not take any excuse for an answer for any laxity or Complaint from the stakeholders. His vision was to make ‘’the Tincan Can Island the best friendly port in the country for trade facilitation’’.
For the importers with their agents who were used to engaging in wrong Classification of their imports, False declaration, and other forms of trade infractions like Concealment and underpayment with the support of their Customs Collaborators to shortchange the government they may have known that the game is up and therefore the need to do the right thing to avoid playing into the hands of Comptroller Oloyede and his officers hands at the port.
An agent who spoke to the Value News disclosed within his short time in office that he has successfully ‘’reengineered the Command as the officers and the agents are back to work without any problem. A visitor to the Command last Thursday would be surprised that business have fully returned to the port that was paralysed for over two weeks.
The Magazine cited some of the agents at Five Star Terminal, within the Tin can Island port, trying to locate their clients’ vehicles. They were going about their business as if nothing has happened at the port over the last two weeks. The noticeable large number of agents usually found at the Customs Processing Center, CPC, and the Command Compliance Unit were lacking , confirming what the Customs Area Controller had said that ‘’ the implementation of the VIN , would reduce officers and agents contact’’. The few agents that were said to have been found at the CPC were those who have issues to settle or who have to process their document relating to their containerized cargoes at the port.
Recall that the Ali led Customs Management had given the Command daily target of about N 2 billion, which was said to have been increased by the Command Management to about N2.5 billion, which translates to about N17.5. billion per week or N912.5billion for the 2022 Fiscal year
Comptroller Oloyede may have known that he has a big task at hand that he has hit the ground running by mobilizing all the terminal heads and their officers both within and outside the port to ensure that the Command daily, weekly and monthly targets were met and even surpassed.
Informed sources told The Magazine that since he came on board the Command daily revenue Collections ranges between N3 billion and N3.6 billions, an indications that the Command may hit the N5 billion daily revenue generation before the end of the end of the year. Last year,only the Apapa Command was able to hit the N5 billion daily revenue collection.
The impressive revenue Collection of the Command in 2021, may have informed why the Management has given it a N5 billion, daily revenue target this year, which translates to about N35 billion per week or N1.825 trn for the 2022 Fiscal year.
Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, appears to have cast his mindset that Apapa and Tincan Island Command would generate more than N3.14 trn or over 80 % of the service N4.1 trn revenue target set by the Management for the year as against N2.2 trn set by the governement.
The importance of the ICT in Customs operations became more pronounced as D/C Yusuf, Coordinator Of the Headquarters Strike Force Team A, had tried to use it to intimidate Apapa Command recently by targeting a Container that was said to have been intercepted by the Command Enforcement Officers at the APM terminal over alleged Contravention of the government Fiscal policy. He was said to have been disappointed as Babatude Olomo, a D/C, overseeing the Command Enforcement Unit and his boys had detained the Container, which is liable to seizure at the port.
Even Hussain Kehinde Ejibunu who was said to have targeted another Container with the number allegedly given Mohammed Abdullahi, an Assistant Comptroller and the Command Head of Lagos Roving, who in turn was said to have detailed his Patrol Team officers along the Oshodi –Apapa Express ay about the Container that was said to have contravened the government Fiscal policy at the APM terminal, was disappointed that it was intercepted at the terminal by the Command Enforcement Patrol team without getting close to the exit gate, let alone exit the port.
Deputy Comptroller Olomo, and the Head of the Command Enforcement Unit who has said to have tracked the Container loaded with the Contraband goods from his office had a matching order to his field officers to detain it for re-examination.
Many believe that he has the backing of Compt, Malanta Yusuf the Area Comptroller, who has given him a mandate to ensure that ‘’no Contraband exit the port, let alone fall into the hands of the Headquarters Strike Force Tam A or the FOU, Zone A, Lagos Roving Team.
It is not surprisising why D/C and his Patrol officers have tightened up security at the port that no Consignment that had had contravened the government Fiscal policy could exit the port.
An insider told The Magazine that D/c Olomo, has a philosophy ‘’to intercept all Contrabands at the port instead of giving room for the agent to exit the cargo out of the port to be intercepted by Headquarters Strke Force Team A or FOU, Zone A patrol Team officers on the road.
It is not surprising why acting Comptroller Ejibunu and the DC. Yususuf, Coordinator, Headquarters Strike Force, have little or no job to do at the port port for now but to concentrate their anti-smuggling operations in the the south west states of Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti including Lagos, where there are many illegal border routes and several creeks that are used by the smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities.
Take for instance in OGun state alone, there are over 140 illegal border routes used by the smugglers.
Acting Comptroller ejibunu may have that the Command no longer have much job to do at the port to embarrass the Area Comptrollers with their weekly reports to Ali, the Customs Comptroller General , that he goes out on Operations with A/C Abdullahi and his boys. He was said to have led an Operation at Ibeshe, where Dangote Industries owned by Aliko Dangote, the richest man in African, has a Cement Factory . The Ejibuno Team were said to have made a large of hundreds of bags of foreign parboiled rice of 50 Kg each.
DC. Yusuf, the Coorrdinator of the Headquarters Strike Force Team A, should take a cue from acting Comptroller Ejibuno to lead Patrol Teams instead of depending on the Team ICT facility at Way House road Apapa to target Containers at Apapa, Tincan Island, Port &Cargo and KLT phases I &II including PTML, that would be difficult in coming because the Command ICT officers are doing their job as it ought to be doneby working closely with their Enforcement Units.