By Stephen Ubanna
Comptroller Auwal Mohammed of the Nigerian Customs Service, Port Harcourt Area 11 Command, Onne, Rivers state, has set a track record despite hiccups that slows down its operations that other Area Comptrollers in such Commands may have to beat.
With the increased of volume of cargo traffic through the Onne port and blockade of areas of revenue leakage , Comptroller Mohammed and his officers, particular, the exit gate officers, under the supervision of Mahmood Ibrahim, a Deputy Comptroller, who combines both his experience as a revenue mobiliser and an Enforcement guru, I his ‘’small corner at the port’’, to sustain the steady growth of the Command monthly revenues.
The exit gate Officers, who have the backing of the Customs Comptroller, were said to have made things difficult for the as the importers with their agents who were used to flying Containers out of the port in the past as have been forced to do the right thing in order to take delivery of their cargoes without problem at the exit gate. It is not surprising why ‘’the problems of wrong Classifications, False declarations, underpayments and Concealment have been reduced to the barest minimum at the port.
Not many people were surprised that Comptroller Mohammed and his Team, could all that much in an interval of one year and one month. Aware that he has a major assignment to carry out at the PortHarcourt Area II Command, when he was deployed to the Command by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, in September, 2020, where he was said to have inherited a monthly revenue of N13.1 billion from his predecessor, h the Customs Comptroller, according to an insider went back to the drawing board with his Management Team to restrategise on how to improve the monthly revenue generations of the Command. They may have gotten it right.
With all the members of the Management Team, making their inputs which was said to have been pieced together by the Area Controller as a working document, the monthly revenue generation of the Command had been on a steady growth between September 2020 and now.
Take for instance, in the month of August, 2021, alone, the Command, had generated and paid into the Federation Account N17.8 billion while,18.2 billion was collected in the month of September and N19 billion in the month of October, thus bringing the total revenue generation of the Command in ten months of this year to N147.3 billion.
Ironically, the Command had made such huge revenue generation for the Command in the month of October, 2021, particular, without the use of the Command Mobile of Scanner machine equipped with X-ray facilities for scanning of Containerised cargoes. This is an indications that more revenue would be generated by the Command once the Mobile scanner is deployed for operations. At present Consignments discharged at the port and due for release are still being physically examined by the various security agencies personnel at the seaport.
Recall that the Onne Customs Comptroller had boasted that ‘’if hitherto the Examination officers at the port could handle one hundred Containers daily, but with the introduction of the mobile scanner for examination of cargoes, these would be doubled two hundred Containers daily, meaning more revenue to the government.
This may have informed why the Custom Comptroller could beat is chest that when the Command eventually release its annual performance chart in January, 2022, Nigerians would be surprised. ‘’I assure you, we are going to surprise almost everybody as the officers effort will be more appreciated’’, he had said.
He had told those that cares to listen that that Command has the capacity and potentials to do more than it is currently doing but the major Challenge remained the ‘’bad road to move the trucks laden Containers from the seaport’’ to the importers warehouses in different parts of the country, particular, in the south eastern states of Abia, Eboyi, Enugu, Anambra and Imo.
There is no gain saying the fact the deplorable state of the PortHarcourt /Onne axis of the East-west road , had continuously delayed the movement of Consignments in and out of the port to the importers locations.The bad road is a majorchallenge to the Command because no matter’’ how many trucks laden Containers are released from the West African Container Terminal, WACT and other bonded terminals within the south-south state, linked to the Onne seaport, the rate at which such imported cargoes move in or the exports goes move out of the port is still largely determined by the nature of the road’’, an officer remarked.
There may still be hope that the situation of the East-West road may improve soon. This is evident going by the survey works, seismic vulnerability and other technical measures in highway Construction that were said to have carried out on the road by the President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army General Administration, in the recent time. Many believe that if the road can be fixed in the next couple of months,’’ it will impact positively on the Command overall operations’’. This is because importers with their agents would be able to move their Containers with ease out of the port as exporters would no have problem of taking their agro- products into the port for export to their oversea Customers including those in the Central African sub-regional market.
In a related development , Vice President Yemi Osinbajo,, has urged Nigeria exporters to take advantage of the opportunities for growth in the African market through the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCTA, to boost the growth of the country’s non- oil exports. He was said to have made the call on Wednesday, November 10, 2021, when he received a delegation of major agro exporters at the Presidential vVilla. The agro exporters were said to have been accompanied to the Presidential Villa by Segun Awolowo, Chief Executive Officer, CEO /Executive Director, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, NEPC.
He had enjoined the Nigerian exporters not to worry about the government Fiscal policies, as the government will continue ‘’to support the country exporters’’ through its agencies, particular, the NEPC, under the close watch of Awolowo, by bringing out necessary reforms ‘’to move the country away from being an oil-dependent economy’’.
Jumoke Oluwole, the Presidential Adviser on the Ease of doing at the nation’s seaports had said that ‘’the automation of Customs processes and the single window interface s will positively affect trade, in and out of the country, noting that it will go a long way ‘’to tackle the challenges faced by them on a daily basis and improve the country’s business environment’’.
Bello-Koko, acting Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, may have gladdened the hearts of the trading public , when he gave an insight of the efforts being made by the Authority ‘’to tackle issues related to export and to further , boost the country’s exports’’ . He noted that with ‘’ the call-up system, special concessions are given to the export Containers as long as they are good to go, meaning that the shipping Companies are ready to carry their cargoes.