BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
The Customs Area Controller of the Nigeria Customs Service, Tin Can Island Command, Comptroller Dera Nnadi mni, may have punctured holes in the reported claim by an official of one of the struggling, small freight forwarding associations with head office in Port Harcourt that the NCS new administration did not achieve much within its first 100 days in office.
Nnadi note that the submission is not only bereft of intellectual rigour and critical assessment but smacks of half truths and common place bias, arguing that the capacity of the customs new leadership to preside over an estimated 80percent of the nation’s economic activities is phenomenal.
Speaking with journalists in his office, the Tin Can Island Customs boss argued that whereas constructive criticism primed on critical pillars of assessment is helpful and very welcome, doing so without regards to the scorecard of the core functions of the service which is to suppress smuggling, collect revenue, facilitate trade and to enforce federal government’s fiscal policies, is a disservice; noting that above national assignments has received quality attention with huge economic benefits.
While also noting that performance assessment based on 100 days in office is for most leaders a short time to aggregate capacity, he however said that in the last 100 days, in addition to enforcing Nigeria’s fiscal policies which cut across sectors and which accounts for over 80per cent of economic activities, the new acting Comptroller General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi MFR has undertaken a number of strategic trade facilitation and engagements, both local and regional, designed to impact Nigeria’s economy in the short, medium and long term; and which overall benefits are huge and not immediately visible; he said.
These, Nnadi stressed include but not limited to the border pact signed between Nigeria and the Republic of Benin, which according to him would be a game changer for the country in promoting regional trade, in addition to other partnerships and engagements initiative aimed at strengthening compliance and to discourage smuggling; which is the single biggest threat to local production, self sufficiency and export capacity.
He further stressed that the CGC should be judged primarily by what happens at the various commands of the service and under his watch, noting that several milestone seizures across busy commands, which if not checkmated would have serious negative effects on the national economy, even as he reminded Nigerians about revenue targets are not only being met but in most cases surpassed across the commands, all of which flows from strategic reforms and measures put in place by the Adeniyi.
He said: “I’ll be very surprised if someone says not much has been achieved in the last 100 days of office. Being a serious stakeholder himself, one of the first things that was achieved was engaging the stakeholders. I am surprised that people still think that Customs should work in silo; that’s very wrong. Customs is responsible for over 80 per cent of activities in our national economy.
“Practically speaking, whereas the Ministries of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Trade and Investment, the Federal Executive Council etc churn out policies on economic development, Customs implement those policies. The CG of Customs does not sit in one place; no, we have to talk to our major stakeholders, who are also Nigerians and whom our activities impact positively or negatively; that is what we had to achieve first.
“Secondly, we had to restore the confidence of Customs officers, who have been under the leadership of a non-Customs officer, who to his credit also did so much to develop our capacities and environment. So, there is a transition period; and people still expect that you just wake up one morning and ‘boom’, our revenue is now 100per cent.
“Don’t also forget that Customs is being affected by other economic policies in the country. For instance, we’re being affected by the exchange rate, cargo throughput has drastically gone down and the same CG is managing it effectively. Our trade modernisation project is an ongoing process, we have partners in the system to continue with the project, officers are being trained. Just recently, some officers went for promotion interviews; so the system didn’t shut down in the last 100 days.”
He continued: “The 100-day syndrome is a creation by Nigerians because in a dynamic environment like the port industry, you should not assess performance by 100 days, it should actually be every day. For me, as long as revenue is being collected, milestone seizures are being made across commands; the CGC has done very well.
“For instance, talking about my command Tin Can, when I reported on September 14 our revenue collection was at 58per cent, now it is at 62.8per cent as at yesterday (Thursday, October 13, 2023), so there are lots of improvements. I was initially worried about how I can achieve maximum collection of my revenue target in three months, when I am supposed to collect 42per cent in three months. Now, we have brought it down to 37.4pe cent that means we’re making progress.
“I want to believe that before the end of the year, we would be able to achieve the 37.4per cent and even surpass it. That’s an achievement and these are being replicated across commands all over. In Seme, we met our revenue target in August before I left for this place; that means we are making progress under the leadership of the CGC.”