BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
Last week, Thursday, September 28, 2023 the cerebral Nigeria Acting Comptroller General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi MFR presented the scorecard for his first 100 days in office. Known for his international exposure in global trade, customs administration, strategic planning and implementation before his current appointment, Adeniyi has become like a golden fish that has no hiding place, and hence attracts immense and the severest of attention from far and wide; irrespective of the motive, whether well intention or otherwise.
On the whole, there can be no doubt that given his prior standing and political sagacity in the nation’s trade and economic frontiers, his overall performances will most likely constitute the yardstick by which the government of President Ahmed Tinubu will be judged not only by a lot of Nigerians; but also including opponents and admirers of this government.
Perhaps conscious of this reality, and having regards to the delicate balancing he was required to take in terms of critical decision making, whether on routine primary assignments or policy implementations, operations and administration mapping and deployment, he was quick to making all the fixes, fully aware of the responsibilities and of course, the confidence reposed on him for the success of the Nigeria Customs Service and by extension the national economy by Mr. President.
It was not also surprising that he came fully prepared, not only with the task of explaining his first 100 days in office, but indeed, armed with the results of the critical diagnosis of his general and specific assignments, their potentials and prospects; together with the delicate balancing of expectations and the deliverables.
And when he made his presentations, he was in his element as intellectual power house, a seasoned, commissioned customs professional, a repository of customs extant laws, a customs trade financial adjuster and a veteran in the abacus of operations and administration.
Slowly and steadily, he un-wrapped the NCS present blueprint under his watch, whilst marrying the present with the past, and integrating same with future projections; and further wrapping the fundamentals around the Economic Agenda of the Tinubu Administration, even as he evinced clarity of purpose and confidence bore out of utmost fidelity.
Of particular note, the CGC reiterated his administration’s policy direction which fulcrum shall be revenue growth and border security; adding that necessary adjustments in critical operational areas are been made to firm up certain identified structural weaknesses.
He disclosed further that his mission from day one revolved around the tripartite principles of consolidation, collaboration and innovative solutions; which according to him will remain the bedrock of the service’s mission and objective.
This is even as he listed achievements of the last 100 days to include enhanced revenue generation, suppression of smuggling, increased collaboration, innovative solutions, stakeholders’ engagements and satisfaction, operational efficiency, and recorded average clearance time.
The customs boss explained that the adoption of the tripartite solutions aforementioned became compelling as a means of overcoming hitherto traditional approaches which he noted have started giving signs of defects and limitations; one of which was in the area of intelligence gathering through local informants.
He said, “It is important to recognize that the adoption of our policy thrust, “Consolidation, Collaboration, and Innovative Solutions,” came at a juncture when traditional approaches were showing signs of limitations. Key performance indicators for the Nigeria Customs Service were revealing gaps that demanded immediate attention.
“Revenue collection consistently fell short of the monthly target of N307billion during the first half of the year. Traders faced unnecessary delays resulting from multiple layers of checks and enforcement, increasing the cost of doing business and impeding the flow of goods at our ports.
“Our over-reliance on informants proved to be less effective, as they often shared the same information with those on the wrong side of the law. Furthermore, stakeholders were growing increasingly marginalized in decisions that directly impacted their operations. These were challenges that my predecessor was diligently addressing, and we have built upon those efforts”, he declared.
On achievements, he said, “One of our early achievements has been a remarkable boost in monthly revenue collection. We’ve witnessed a substantial increase, with an average monthly collection of 202 billion in the first half of the year that concluded in June, surging to an impressive 343 billion in the past two months, July and August. This outstanding growth amounts to a remarkable 70.13% increase in revenue collection.
“I’m delighted to announce that we’ve consistently exceeded the monthly target collection of 307 Billion Naira, marking a remarkable departure from previous performances. The ongoing Revenue Recovery review activities have contributed an additional 8 billion Naira during this period, underlining our commitment to revenue generation.
“Subject to unforeseen circumstances, our aim is to sustain and even expand this momentum until the end of the year. This commitment is driven by our resolve to minimize the deviation from the target, especially in light of the substantial shortfalls recorded during the first half of the year.
On suppression of smuggling, he said, “In the ongoing battle against smuggling, the NCS has achieved impressive results over the past eight months. With a total of 1,763 seizures, valuing a substantial 11.9 billion Naira in Duty Paid Value, we have successfully intercepted various contraband items, including arms, ammunition, illicit drugs, substandard pharmaceuticals, and other prohibited goods that pose grave risks to our citizens.
“These seizures, accompanied by the apprehension of 62 suspects undergoing legal procedures, underscore our commitment to tackling smuggling and safeguarding our communities. Notably, a significant surge in impactful seizures, especially involving arms, ammunition, and drugs, has occurred in the past two months, reinforcing our resolve to combat these illegal activities.”
Explaining the gains in collaboration, engagement and innovations, he said, “We forged stronger alliances and fostered an environment of trust and cooperation among our stakeholders including the Public and Private sector as well as our international partners.
“We at the verge of introducing multiple cutting-edge solutions to support our enforcement strategies starting with the signing of an MOU later today that seeks to put vehicle smugglers out of business for good”, adding:
“We prioritized stakeholder engagement, recognizing the critical role they play in our operations. We established regular channels for dialogue, ensuring that their voices are heard and considered in decision-making processes.”
The customs helmsman disclosed that his administration have also have identified key performance indicators, KPIs, supported by concrete data, to help measure the administration’s progress and successes.
He listed the KPIs to include the following:
- Monthly Revenue Collection. We will closely monitor and report on our monthly revenue collection to track our performance.
- Average Clearance Time. We will measure the time it takes to clear goods at ports and border posts, aiming for continuous reductions in clearance times.
- Stakeholder Satisfaction. To gauge our collaboration efforts, we will regularly solicit feedback from stakeholders, including traders, to assess their satisfaction with our services.
- Operational Efficiency. We will measure the efficiency of our operations by monitoring the number of cargo inspections, seizures, and clearances to ensure optimal resource utilization.
“These principles have guided our actions and decisions, propelling us toward a future marked by excellence, efficiency, and effectiveness”, he said.
Adeniyi explained that the policy pillars of the NCS under his administration clearly espouses the national policy agenda of President Bola Tinubu, tailored to renewed hope, economic growth and job creation, prosperity and national security.
“Our chosen policy thrust was not arrived at by chance; it was deliberately aligned with the Policy Advisory Council Document of the President Tinubu Led Administration and the eight priority areas of the government. These priorities include food security, ending poverty, economic growth and job creation, access to capital, improving security, improving the ease of doing business, upholding the rule of law, and fighting corruption.
“In embracing “Consolidation, Collaboration, and Innovative Solutions,” we are not only advancing the interests of the Nigeria Customs Service but also contributing significantly to the broader national agenda. Our dedication to enhancing revenue growth, border security, and the ease of doing business directly supports the government’s efforts in economic growth, job creation, and upholding the rule of law. This alignment underscores our commitment to being a proactive partner in achieving the collective goals of our nation. Our chosen policy thrust serves as the compass in our journey towards a more efficient, collaborative, and innovative Nigeria Customs Service.
“At the heart of our vision are our core values: community-focused, collaboration, integrity, excellent service, and innovative solutions that propel the Nigeria Customs Service forward. These values guide our every action, ensuring that we not only meet the needs of our great nation today but also anticipate and prepare for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow. In a rapidly changing world, it is crucial that we maintain a forward-thinking and progressive perspective. The importance of this approach cannot be overstated, as it is the key to our continued success in facilitating trade, securing our borders, and contributing to Nigeria’s economic growth and development.
“The policy thrust of “Consolidation, Collaboration, and Innovative Solutions” is not merely a collection of words; it represents the very essence of our mission in the Nigeria Customs Service. It signifies our unwavering commitment to building upon the foundation of excellence laid by our predecessors, forging stronger partnerships with key stakeholders, and continuously seeking innovative solutions to the challenges we face.
“This policy thrust holds profound significance for several reasons. Firstly, it acknowledges the need to consolidate the positive legacies of the Customs Service, recognizing that our history is rich with achievements that must be preserved and built upon. Secondly, it places a strong emphasis on collaboration, understanding that we cannot operate in isolation. To thrive in the complex landscape of international trade and security, we must work closely with our fellow agencies, the private sector, and other stakeholders. Lastly, it underscores the importance of innovation as a driving force behind our progress. In today’s dynamic world, embracing innovative solutions is not an option but a necessity.
“Our chosen policy thrust seamlessly aligns with the overarching vision for the Nigeria Customs Service – “To become the most efficient and service-driven government organ, with a relentless focus on revenue growth and border security.” By consolidating our strengths, collaborating effectively, and fostering innovation, we are not only fulfilling our vision but also setting the standard for excellence in government service.”
He assured of the capacity and commitment of his administration to be able to drive the set policy thrust to the benefit of the nation, conclusively; noting that the policy are etched in doable blueprint and in tune with the objective of the NCS.
“The synergy between our vision and policy thrust creates the requisite momentum that propels us forward. We recognize that to be the best, we must consistently strive to improve our efficiency, enhance our service delivery, and secure our borders. This alignment ensures that our efforts remain steadfastly directed towards achieving our mission and, ultimately, serving our great nation with dedication and distinction.”
Further speaking on the gains made in the last 100 days, Adeniyi identified factors that have propelled the service revenue generation system upwards.
“In our first 100 days in office, we embarked on a comprehensive overhaul of the Nigeria Customs Service, guided by our policy thrust. We recognized that to effect real change, we needed to incrementally challenge the status quo and instigate a transformation that was both dynamic and results oriented.
“One of our primary objectives was to optimize revenue collection. We introduced a series of reforms aimed at plugging revenue leakages, streamlining the customs clearance process and addressing the existing gaps at the time. Some of the noteworthy measures implemented during this period include:
- The immediate set up of a Revenue Review Performance Recovery Team.
- Dissolution of existing Strike Force Teams that constituted the multiple layers of enforcement into the recognised structure of Federal Operations Unit (FOU). This was done to reduce the multiple checkpoints from about 5 Units of checks at every stretch to just 2 that should comprise the either the command or the FOU.
- The introduction of the Advanced Ruling system represents a notable stride in aligning our operations with global best practices, in line with the recommendations of the WTO TFA (World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement).
- The inauguration of a Steering Committee on the Implementation of the Authorised Economic Operators for Compliant Traders, with a clear focus on transitioning from the existing Fastrack 2.0 to the AEO concept.
- Interactions with the international community – WCO, JICA, Japan Customs among others on the implementation of the Customs Laboratory, adoption of geospatial, conduct of a Time Release Study to mention a few.
- Completion of 2 Working engagements with the Customs Administration of the Republic of Benin, each paid by both administrations, to address the existing gaps that sustains the activities of smugglers and revenue leakage.
- The establishment of a committee tasked with revitalizing the zonal structures of the service, granting them the authority to rejuvenate the Service.
h. The reconstitution of a new management team, appointed strictly based on merit, upholding the principle of equitable geopolitical representation.
i. The commencement of the integration process for Customs Basic and intermediary institutions into the administrative framework of the Nigeria Customs Service.
- A strategic reassignment of Customs Area Controllers, also rooted in merit and in adherence to the principle of equitable geopolitical representation.
- The initiation of the development of a Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy for the Nigeria Customs Service, harmonized with the goal of contributing to the government’s development agenda, fostering enduring and positive relationships with communities, elevating the NCS’s reputation as a socially responsible organization, and enhancing staff engagement and productivity.
- The creation of an ideas bank comprising feedback and comments gathered during the operational visits to Customs commands.
- Re-energised the activities of the National Trade Facilitation Committee through engagements and the hosting of a retreat to chat the way forward on Trade Facilitation in Nigeria.
- Finalised arrangements with the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to integrate our systems and minimise the registration of smuggled vehicles.
- Held engagements with several stakeholders including government agencies, non-governmental agencies and the private sector, to mention a few.
- The prompt clearance of arrears for officers, serving as an interim measure to boost their morale, while further incentives are under consideration.
It bears noting that Adeniyi touched on many issues which for purposes of emphasis shall be dealt with one at a time; which correspond precisely with the national development agenda of the President Tinubu.