Customs Enjoys Better Service Delivery Under Ag.CG  Adeniyi As IMF Accuses Tinubu Of Taking Hasty Decisions With Important Reforms

By Stephen Ubanna

 Between June 20, 2023, and now , that the athletic-built Adewale Adeniyi, assumed duties as the acting Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service , NCS, following the removal of Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel, the immediate past Comptroller General  by President  Bola Ahmed Tinubu on June 19, 2023  the service appears to be  wearing a new look amidst the International Monetary Fund  , IMF,  report that Nigeria  will have   its growth  bottoming out in this 2023 and bouncing back in 2024 fiscal year.

Many believe that Adeniyi, the acting CGC, who  has been able to put the economic saboteurs  at the nation’s land orders under check and  effectively monitor what is happening at the nation’s seaports, airports as he  has combined all the administrative traits of  past Comptroller Generals he  had closely  worked with as the National Public Relations officer of the service and member of the Management Team of the then Ali’s tenure coupled with the Presidential  mandate  to ensure  that the service  double its efforts  to achieve greater heights  in its revenue generation, suppression of smuggling and trade facilitation.

 His policy thrust of collaboration, Consultation and Innovation   with professionals and global experts in the World Customs Organisations, WCC, in Brussels, capital of Belgium appeared to have been geared towards making informed decisions that have not only promoted trade facilitation, but robust operational effectiveness of the service personnel at the seaports, airports and Land border areas across the country. 

Many believe that the experience acquired from the previous administrations, particular, that of Ali, who was said to have abandoned the service core mandate of trade facilitation and EoDB to focus mainly on revenue generation may have prepared for the job. The retired Army Colonel may not have been bordered about the five- year-old crisis of the 69- year-old Association of the Nigerian License Customs Agents, ANLCA, as long as members are getting their importers to pay their duties for imported cargoes at the entry’s entry points.

 The fallout was that the nation’s economy was at its downward growth rate and foreign n investors scared from coming into the country to invest as they moved to other neighbouring West African countries of Benin Republic, Ghana, Togo and Coted’Ivoire to locate their factories and which manufactured goods are pushed into the Nigerian market which has the market while cross-border smuggling thrives.

The acting CGC, who was instrumental to the restoration of peace in ANLCA, appears to have brought about a robust discussion on Issues in the recent time. More interesting is that within the short period in office he has embarked on the expendition  of enhancing Customs efficiency and service delivery through Local and international collaborations, , cutting- edge technologies such as al-driven solutions and innovative projects aimed at shaping  the future  of Customs practices in the country.  

  The moves by the new Leadership of ANLCA, to take advantage of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, under the close watch of Jamoh , OFR, supervised Cabotage  VesselFinance Fund, CVFF,  to protect members jobs from   the Asian countries of China,  South Kora and the European country of Turkey freight forwarders who are using  their financial muscles to take over the industry rom Nigerians as they have gradually taken over the country’s shipping sector speaks volume.

 Indeed, he past and present Leadership of the foremost agents Association could advance to do that because they now have a Customs Comptroller General who is ready to support them.  Note that the foreign clearing agencies had completely taken over the clearing of project cargoes which ought to have cleared at the nation’s seaports by the local freight forwarders. 

Kayode Farinto, a former acting President of ANLCA, had alluded to the fact that Chinese Civil Engineering Construction, Company CCECC, as one such companies using their financial strength   to do cargoes project clearing jobs, which may have informed why the company alone is doing all the cargo clearing job in Nigeria.

Hear him: they produce the good, import, clear and warehouse it.  He had said that if one clearing agency in Nigeria could be   given a project cargo to do for an importer, the usual complaints of paucity of funds being experienced in the Association and other freight forwarders’ Associations, across the country would never  be the same again.

 Let us hope that Emenike Nwokeji, who was said to have retired as an Assistant Comptroller of Customs and now President ANLCA, and who knows much of the problem will take up the matter with the incumbent Customs Comptroller General, the shipping Companies and the terminal operators to stop it and give Nigerians back their job.       

.      Aware of the high level of smuggling across the nation’s Land border areas, sea, Creeks a and watersides, may have encouraged the Customs acting Customs Comptroller General has to throw his weight behind the interventionist Units.

As a prelude to  getting it right, the Customs Comptroller General who is acting on the mandate of the Nigerian President  was said to have  paid a working visit  to  Jibia Magama and Jibia Maje  Land border Communities , in Katsina, home state of former President Muhammadu Buhari  where there had been rumours since the closure of the border communities with the neighbouring Niger in 2019 that  outbound and outward   cargoes  are being smuggled in and out of the country.

   He was said to have read the riot act to the officers to sit up, insisting that   both outbound and outward movement of cargoes should no longer be allowed to pass through the border Communities in the state.

Recall that former President Buhari, who had asked the then Management of the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, to effectively control the nation’s borders, had said that’’ only God would be able to man the over 1,400Km, of borders shared with Republic of Niger.   The Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone B, Joint Border Patrol Team, Kaduna Zonal office, and the Katsina Command Interventionist unit officers may have read   the body language of the acting Customs Comptroller General, Adeniyi, that he will not take  any excuse for an answer  for any  non- performance that they were forced to wake up and to do the right thing to avoid playing into his hands.  

From FOU zone A, Ikeja, Lagos to  zone D, Bauchi including Idiroko, Oyo/Osun, Mfun in Cross river sate  to Ilela in Sokoto state,  to   Jibia in Katsina state,  the story is the same. improved anti-smuggling operations.

The Customs boss may have put more attention on equipping he the service amphibious Commands, as he was said to have given approval for the procurement of two additional patrol vessels to beef up its anti-smuggling operations in the waters. The Western Marine Command according to a senior officer, which would be the major beneficiary, going by the online Magazine investigations would need more technical personnel to operate the vessels, that requires 25 officers to be attached to each of the vessels. For now the amphibious Command only has 180 officers, with only 4 vessels to patrol the water ways in the south western geopolitical region and several broken down vessel that litter the premises awaiting to be repaired.    

In a related development, the Nigerian Army under the Leadership of Maj. General Rasheed Lagbaja, has initiated plans to collaborated with the NCS, to further strengthen the country’s border Communities security  as well as  initiate modules  to aid its non- kinetic operations.

Gen. Lagbaja, was said to have told have Adeniyi, the Customs Comptroller General, during a visit to the Army Headquarters in Abuja, last September, that ‘’the collaborative efforts between the two security agencies are crucial to the country’s effective border patrol and checkmate   the activities of illegitimate traders, described in Customs circles as economic saboteurs’’.

The Customs Comptroller General may have sent a message to the smugglers that it is no longer going to be business as usual as the NCS, which has the Constitutional mandate ‘’to enforce the government fiscal policy, enhance public safety and foster Law and order in the land border areas are not relenting in do so.

He had canvassed for ‘’the escalation of synergy in joint operational engagements to tackle cross-border criminal activities in the country ‘s border communities to deal decisively with the dare-devil smugglers and to overrun them’’. Determined to take the Nigerian Customs service to another level, he was said to have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with Corps Marshall Dauda Ali, his Counterpart in Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, to foster unity between the two agencies and help prevent areas of revenue leakages.

Ag. CG. Adeniyi is optimistic that the MoU, between the two parties would also lead ‘’to seamless collaboration, operational efficiency, enhanced compliance and innovative problem solving on Nigerian roads’’. He was emphatic that it MoU, which include resource optimisation, would further lead to road safety, revenue generation and other essential aspects of vehicle documentation.

In spite of efforts by the Ag. CG Adeniyi led NCS, to put the Nigerian economy on the path of growth by dealing decisively with the fraudulent importers with their agents and smugglers , the IMF, under the Leadership of Christalina Georgieva which had forecasted a growth rate of 3.3% for Nigerian economy in 2022, had downgraded to 2.9% in the 2023 fiscal year, stating that it would bounce back to 3.1% in 2024.

The IMF had attributed the downward review of the nation’s growth forecast in its 2023, economic outlook, ‘’partly because of the demonetization, the high inflation, shocks to agriculture and the country’s hydrocarbon output’’.  This is in addition to the external factors coming from the higher food prices and fertilizer prices   from the Ukraine-Russia war, the funding squeeze -harder to get capital and the still very high spreads and exchange rate pressures.

 It stopped short at blaming the Nigerian President for the downward growth forecast of the nation’s economy as he was said ‘’to have moved quickly with important economic reforms including, ending Premium Motor Spirit, popular, Petrol subsidy in which the Nigerian government is projected to achieve fiscal savings of about N2 trillion or 0.9% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP and N11 trillion by 2025 as well as the unification the parallel and official exchange rates markets’’.

The IMF which had initially welcomed the Nigerian President bold economic initiatives, particular, the harmonisation of the foreign exchange markets  on the ground that it will  help ‘’to improve  the efficiency of the forex market  and reduce inflationary pressures  had expected  Tinubu’s administration to complete the reforms which it had started  ‘’by removing forex restrictions, clearly  communicating  how the new forex regime  will operate  and implementing  supportive monetary  and fiscal policies’’ but failed to do so resulting in the naira crashing to the North American country of the United States , US , dollar and other foreign currencies in the forex market. This clearly shows that the IMF, which initially had supported Tinubu’s administration bold reforms because they see them as paving the way forward for stronger and inclusive growth of the economy may have tactically  withdrawn their support from him , thus resulting in the country’s economic somersault.  

Additional Reports by Elizabeth Chukwuma

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