Special Report: 62 Customs Comptrollers , Including Some Old Area Controllers Redeployed Amidst Applause  

By Stephen Ubanna

 For much of December, 2022, and early January 2023, there have been rumours making the rounds that Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel, who has President Muhammadu Buhari’s, mandate in 2015, ‘’to go to Customs: reform, restructure and improve the service revenue collection’’ will introduce some fresh hands into the Management Team and  theArea Commands. This is because of the vacancies that had been created at the Headquarters, Zonal and Area Command s, including the adhoc Interventionist Teams.

The rumour became pronounced when the Customs Board under the Chairmanship of Hajia Zainab Ahmed, minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning confirmed the appointment of the three Acting   Assistant Comptroller Generals, ACGs, of Customs, appointed by Ali, the Customs Comptroller General in last year.

The Board approval the promotion list  of the 1,490, senior officers including the 64 Deputy Comptrollers, who were said to have scaled through the  examination hurdle to the enviable rank of Comptroller.      

The Customs Comptroller General, may have started with the appointment and deployment of 20 Management Team members on Thursday, January 13, 2023. Late last week, the exercise was said to trickle down to the deployment of 62 Comptrollers, which was said to have affected some serving Area Controllers.

Compt Wada: Former Area Compt. Katsina Command, Now In-charge Of PortHarcourt Area I

 Among the serving Area Comptrollers that were said to have been affected in the Customs shakeup were Comptrollers Cheldi Dalha Wada, former Area Comptroller Katsina Command, Sambo Dangaladima,  Murtala Mohammed Airport, MMA, Command  and  Auwal Mohammed , PortHarcourt Area II Command  in Rivers state . The duo Comptrollers Wada and Mohammed,ewre said to have been deployed to new Area Commands.

 Until his redeployment to PortHarcourt Area I, Rivers state, Comptroller Wada and his men, had made life uncomfortable for the smugglers and Bandits in the Nigerian President home state.

 The no nonsense Customs Comptroller was said to have to have proved to the smugglers and Bandits, in the state that the Command anti-smuggling officers will always be ahead of them in whatever step they take to carry out their nefarious activities.

This is evident going by the continuous change of strategy by the Command Patrol Team officers to effectively cover the too many illegal routes in the state, including the far flung, Land borders that are   yet to be  reopened which many had said was very rewarding.  

 Indeed, the reopening of the Jibia border for normal imports and exports transactions last April may have prepared Comptroller Wada  to serve in the seaport where Conataineri sed cargoes are discharged, positioned for examination by the relevant security agencies and valued  by Customs Valuation officers.

 While still the Area Controller of Katsina Command, it  was said to have collected revenue running into millions of naira  for the government by ensuring that appropriate duty and charges, including Value Added Tax, VAT, are paid for all goods passing through the Jibia border by the owners.

 He may have known that there is no way the Command could meet its revenue target , let alone surpass it, without blocking all areas of  revenue  leakage  that could be used  to short change the government by the importers and exporters that he blocked all the loopholes.

    This may have informed why Maritime analysts see his deployment to PortHarcourt Area I, Command, where Comptroller Ibrahim Mohammed, the immediate past Area Controller  had said that the sum of NN92m329,811,715.40, was collected under his Leadership  despite the low inflow  of cargo into the port.   

Many believe that the Customs helmsman has made   a bold Statement by the deploying the anti-smuggling strategist to PortHarcourt Area I, to sustain the tempo of strategic and effective service delivery at the south east port and improve the Command revenue generation.    

Compt. Mohammed: Now Area Controller, Apapa Command

  Another old Area Comptroller that was said to have been redeployed was Comptroller Auwal Mohammed of   PortHarcourt , II, Command, Onne. Going the official document released by the Customs Authorities, the PortHarcourt,II, Command, Area Comptroller  was  deployed to the Apapa Command , formerly manned by Comptroller Malanta Ibrahim Yusuf, who has been elevated to Acting ACG, and deployed to the Information, Communication and Technology, ICT/ Modernisation,  Department at the Customs Headquarters.

Wearing a big shoe that was said to have been left behind by Acting. ACG, Yusuf, and who was said to have raked in N1.02 trillion between January and December, 2022, for the government may have thrown a big challenge to Comptroller Mohammed to deliver on his mandate.

 His performance at Port Harcourt Area II, Command, where here he had collected N242 billion     for the government in 2022, despite the low cargo   of traffic , may have  qualified him to be taken to Apapa Command.

 Recall that Abbakurra,  a former ACG, Customs Headquarters, and now Acting DCG, E.I&I, who was a one -time Area Comptroller, of the Port Harcourt Area II, was deployed from Port Harcourt Area II Command was deployed  the to Apapa Command some years  ago   which eventually catapulted him to the Management Team due to his impressive revenue generation.

 Analysts believe that Comptroller Mohammed will deliver on his mandate because  the government Fiscal policy  measures  made up of  Supplementary Protection Measures , SPM, for the implementation of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, External Tariff, CET, 2022-2026 which  are well known   to him are still thee.

 They further noted further that the Import AdjustmentTax, IAT list, which included additional taxes and levy on 172 tariff lines of extant ECOWAS CET, is still being implemented .Given that the Apapa port controls over 70% of the volume of cargoes passing through the Lagos seaports, means more revenue going to be generated if the volume of the volume cargo imports did not drop because of the fluctuation in the Foreign exchange market.

Three Comptrollers,  whose deployment has been applauded in maritime  circles were Mahmud  Ibrahim, Timi Bomadi, a former National Public Relations Officer of Customs,  and Dera Nnandi, a one-time enforcement Officer, Tincan Isalnd Command who had served as  Area Comptroler , Ogun I, before proceeding To National Institute For Policy  and Startegic Studies, NIPS, Jos, Plateau state, for a year senior Officers course programme.

Compt. Ibrahim: Area Controller, PTML Command

  As the DC, in-charge of the Onne port exit gate, the then DC, Ibrahim was said to have made things difficult for the  non-compliant traders because of his insistence that the right thing must be done to exit any cargo .

Those who had  dared him and his officers were said to have found their Containers transferred to the Government warehouse for proper examination and the owners of such suspected Containers found wanting were said to have been  issued  Demand Notce, DN,  which runs into millions of naira.

Informed sources told The Value News that Mike Mbeatu, Chairman,, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Onne Chapter, and other aggrieved members of the Association and their cohorts   who  did not find it funny about the tight security at the Onne exit gate  which they claimed was delaying   the exit of their cargoes   had fought back. They were said to have protested in May, 2021, calling for the then DC. Ibrahim’s removal. 

They did not stop there .The agents were said to have also  resorted to blackmail that their Containers were being delayed at the Onne exit gate in an attempt ‘’to extort them’’ to attract the attention of Comptroller Mohammed to replace him but got it wrong. 

It was therefore , not very surprising that the  ANLCA members at the Onne Chapter were very happy  when he was deployed to Command &Staff College/ WCO, West &Central Africa Regional Training Centre,  Gwagwalada, Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, FCT in late 2022.

 They may have seen his redeployment as an opportunity to return to their old ways of doing business at the port: flying Containers. The recent approval for the deployment of 62 Comptrollers, by Ali, the Customs boss, may have seen Comptroller Ibrahim being taking to Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, described as a home of fraudulent vehicle importers.  This may have informed why Financial analysts  have expressed the view that the   Customs Comptroller, will have a big task at hand  at the Command, to contain the activities of the bad eggs at the terminal.

 Recall that Ibraim Bomai, the Command former Area Comptroller, who had been elevated to Acting ACG, had a running battle with such the fraudulent vehicle importers.   There is no gain saying the fact that some of the importers using the Terminal  ‘’deliberately pay less than what they should pay for their imported vehicles and their  other cargos  but the hen  Comptroller Bomai, never allowed them to exit such imports  until they settle their outstanding bills.

  Given that some of  the agents  may have known the new PMTL Area Controller when he was the Head of the Compliance Unit at Tincan Island ,  during the Administration of Musa MBA, now  Acting ACG, Trade&Tariff, T&T,  they  may not want to dare him to avoid  losing their cargo

There are indications that thousands  of a combination  RORO and Containerised vehicles are currently trapped at the port and terminals Multipurpose  Limited,  due to the government Vehicle Identification policy.This  may one of the challenges that Comptroller Ibrahim may  to face at the port like his Counterpart at the Tincan Iisland port, Cimptroller, Kunle Oloyede. 

Compt. Yusuf: New Area Controller, MMA Command

Comptroller Sani Yusuf,  a former Coordinator, Comptroller General of Customs, CGC, Strike Force, Team A,  Ikeja, Lagos,  who was  deployed Murtala  Area I, to replace Comptroller Sambo Dangiladima, may have much job to do to contain the activities of the Criminal elements who  may want to bring  in  military hardware into the  country ahead of the 2023, general elections.

The former, MMA, Area Controller was said to have intercepted some military and police hardware including Tramadol, at the domestic wing of Skyview Aviation Handling Company, SAHCO. He had said that the Command intercepted  106  pieces  of military  armless jackets, 352 pieces of  ballistic  body armoured pads,  119 pieces of Police badges, five pieces of bulletproof jackets, 33 pieces  of  body side  ballistic pads and 105 pieces of ballistic chest plate at SAHCO  recently. Moreso, he had disclosed that the Command, collected and paid into the Federation Account about, N70 billion, in 2022 as against the N55.67 billion collected in 2021.

Note that for years, MMA, Command, has been losing millions of naira on fraudulent importers using fake Airway bills to take delivery of their cargoes at National Cargo Handling Company, NAHCO and SAHCO .

This is where Comptroller Yusuf, who has taken over his place at the MMA, Command, may have to double its anti-smuggling efforts and also apply the same technology used in recovering lost revenue for the government that  could have entered into private  pockets  at the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tincan Island , PTML, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, KLT and Lilipond at the Command.  

Compt. Nnadi: Area Controller, Seme Command

 Comptroller, Dera Nnamdi, who was said to have just returned from a year, senior Course programme  NIPS, was said to have  been deployed to Seme Command to replace  Comptroller, Mohammed Bello Jibo, now Acting ACG, Cutoms Headquarters.

As Area Controller of Seme Command, ACG, Jibo, had made mockery of the VIP Petrol smugglers as theCommand was always frustrating their efforts by intercepting thousands Jerrycans of Petrol worth millions of naira shedulled  to be smuggled to the Beninois market through the Creeks.

Comptroller Nnadi may have to roll his trousers and prepare for the VIP Petrol smugglers by carrying,the officers, other security agencies personnel and Community leaders, around the Seme Jurisdictions including the youths,  along to achieve the desired result. Failure to do so will mark the beginning of the VIP smugglers who haave the money to spend.s

 Another Comptroller, whose deployment has been applauded was ComptrollerTimi Bomadi, the Service, former National Public Relations Officer, who may have seen his deployment to KLT as a home coming.  This is because he had started his career as a Customs officer at the Command as the spokesperson working closely with the Command Area Controller.

He hhad witness the detention of suspected Container and the action was taken by the Area Controller due to infractions, meaning that it would be very difficult for any fraudulent importer with his her agent to take delivery of his or her imports  through the terminal exit gate without doing the right: making correct declarations and making the appropriate duty payment.        

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