By Stephen Ubanna
With barely five months on the saddle, as the Area Comptroller, Port Terminal Multi-services Limited, PTML Compt. Mahmood Ibrahim , will on Monday, June 5, 2023, bow out from the service, as both officers and agents , continue to pay homage , thanking him for restoring sanity in the clearing process in the Command. He was said to have been replaced by one Comptroller Yusuf, from the Customs Headquarters, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel, and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, had deployed Compt. Ibrahim, to PTML, at a time when nobody thinks he could make any difference in the Command. This is because his deployment to the Command has come at a time the country was preparing for the 2023, Presidential and National Assembly elections as well as the governorship and state Assembly elections. The elections was said to have forced may importers to adopt a look and see attitude towards importation of cargoes into the country or taking delivery of their cargoes at the port
As a prelude to sanitizing the terminal towards improved cargo delivery and revenue generation, the Customs Comptroller, who, many top senior Customs officers , including, Suleiman Bomai, an Assistant Comptroller General, ACG, had described as very experienced, having served in different Commands where he has been well exposed to Customs Administrations and uncompromising in the enforcement of the Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA, Cap 2004 would make an impact.
Until his name appeared on the retirement list, in of officers due for retirementin May 2023, Compt. Ibrahim, already knew that if the mandatory age of 60 year for retirement from the service, did not catch up with him , certainly the number of years put in, in the service, is 35, will catch up with the oofficer. It was therefore, not surprising why he has he has zeroed his mind that ‘’everything that has a beginning has an end’.
When it became obvious that he will go on Monday, June 5, 2023, as he never wanted to be given the option of spending his three months pre-retirement leave doing the Customs job , as senior officers who are interested, he was said to have prepared his handover Note for his successor, who was already known to him.
As at Wednesday, May 31, 2023, officers, agents and friends, had called at his office to rejoice with him , for leaving the serve without any stain but appreciated by many. A senior officer who spoke to the online Magazine, on condition of anonymity said that he learnt more of ‘’the technical aspects of the Customs job from him’’.
The officer disclosed that that once a document is sent to him for signing and he suspects a foul play, he will invite the officer who had treated the file to stay around him in his office while he takes another look at the document to show the officer his mistakes and do the right thing when such matter comes to him next time.
His insistence that the right thing must be done, using one Emmanuel Hamman, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, overseeing the Compliance unit, under the Area Comptroller’s office, was said to have improved traders compliance at the Command in the last five months.
Perhaps , one major battle, the outgoing PTML, Area Controller, may have fought and won was ‘’to effectively tackle the problem of Wrong Classifications of cargoes , described as one of the areas of revenue Leakages at the nation’s seaports that was said to have resulted in underpayment by the importers with their agents.
The fallout was the improved monthly revenue generation of the Command from a little over N13 billion in January, 2023, to over N15 billion in March and about N20.34 billion, in April, 2023. Unconfirmed report said the Command’s revenue generation in the month of May, 2023, was also within the April range.
Indeed, some of the hardline decisions taken by the PTML, outgoing PTML, Area Controller, that was said to have also manifested on the improved revenue generation of the Command was the stoppage of the gathering together of agents in one place within the Command premises on a daily basis and looking out for information that would trigger crisis at the terminal and subsequent stoppage of work, particular, for officers on the vehicle Seat.
Until his deployment to the Command, most agents resume and closed from the Command premises, and resort to protest at the slightest provocation, which may have informed why PTML, had been dscribed as a crisis-prone terminal. Outgoing Compt. Ibrahim, appears to have changed all that wrong perceptions of the terminal, as both officers and agents go about their business at the terminal without the slightest fear that riot could broke out at any time that might disrupt their operations.
Even when there was a protest at the Mile II, Vehicle Terminal , it was said to have been quickly suppressed as the aggrieved agents who had mobilised touts to carry out their biddings later found out that there was no basis for the their action.
Outgoing Comptroller Ibrahim, hardline decision was said to have also touched the officers and men of the Command. Towards the tail end of this his Administration at PTML, he was said to have stopped officers, who has made the office their second home from sleeping there, let alone do their domestic things, like washing and ironing in the office. Note that officers sleeping in the office is very common in virtually all the Customs Commands, across the country including the Apapa Command.
A close source told The Value News that the PTML, Area Controller, could stop officers from sleeping in the office because has been monitoring them . His major worry may have been that if there is a power surge that could lead to fire outbreak, they may not be able to put it out , let alone save their lives.
This is where the likes of Comptrollers of Auwal Mohammed, Area Comptroller, Apapa Command and Olakunle Oloyede, described as a digital expert and his Counterpart at Tincan Island Command including other Customs Comptroller across the country may have to take a cue from retiring Comptroller Ibrahim to ban officers from sleeping in the office.
While there may be a gale of retirements in the NCS, in this month of June, the service in Collaboration with the World Customs Organisaion, WCO, under’’ the Accelerating Revenue Mobilisation Reforms Program , ARMOR, were said to have initiated ‘’the modalities for migration from Fast Track regime to FT 2.0’’.
Recall that in Launching the FT, 2.0 system, last February, Ali, the Customs CComptroller General, had said that the FT, system, 2.0,, was conceived ‘’to create a unique model capable of satisfying the needs of a crucial sector of the economy dedicated to the local production of goods’’.
The Customs Chief Executive Officer, CEO, had said that ‘’the Fast Track regime was conceptualized , designed and deployed to manufacturers who were said to have shown high level of compliance in their trade dealings with Customs.
Abdullahi Maiwada, a Chief superintendent and Customs spokesperson had said that ‘’the system aims to reward compliance and facilitate trade by admitting traders based on their adherence to regulations and contribution to trade in Nigeria’’. By introducing the FT, 2.0, CSC, Maiwada, had said that ‘’ it will streamline trade process, promote compliance and create a more efficient environment for traders’’.
He noted that when fully operational, the FT, 2.0, is expected ‘’to encourage traders to comply with Customs regulations and rules’’. He asserted that one of the main advantages of the system is ‘’the potential for significant cost reductions associated with cargo handling and demurrage at the ports’’.
He may have gladdened the heart of the existing traders, who are currently using the FT, system, when he said that that they can apply to the FT 2.0, system with little or no obstacle on the way.
Ever since the Launching of the FT. 2.0 region last February, the service , according to an insider had carried out sensitization programs in Lagos, PortHarcourt and the ancient town of Kano with a view ‘’ to educating the trading public about this latest technology or version of FT 2.0 and the roles and responsibilities expected of all the parties in the clearance chain’’.
Otunba Richard Adebayo, a former governor of Ekiti state and immediate past minister of Industry, Trade and Investment , had said that FT 2.0, which is a precursor to the introduction of the Authorised Economic Operator , AEO, Scheme which guarantees more befits to compliant traders would ‘’, aid the ease of doing business in Nigeria’’ , describing it as a remarkable feat for the NCS, under the Leadership of Ali.