Compt.  Ibrahim Prepares To Bow  Out  As Customs Launches  Fast Track 2.0 System  To Improve  Revenue Generation

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 He was said to have been replaced by one Comptroller Yusuf, from the Customs Headquarters, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.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.

Ali: CG, Customs

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. 

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