BY EGUONO ODJEGBBA
The Customs Area Controller (CAC) of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Seme Command, Comptroller Dera Nnadi mni, has said that the operations of the area command provides the backbone to regional integration, trade and diplomacy.
While reviewing some of the area command activities since assuming control of the command in January 2023, Nnadi emphasized the significance of the Seme Corridor.
Seme-Krake Joint Border Post
I wish to once again welcome you all to Nigeria Customs Service, Seme Area Command, and the seat of the Seme-Krake Joint Border Post, the foremost frontier for trade in West and Central Africa Area Command and one of the busiest boundary lines in Africa.
Seme Area Command advantageously lies on the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor (ALCO) which connects Lagos-Cotonou-Lomé-Accra-Abidjan. With a population of over 350 million people, this corridor and indeed the Command accounts for about 70 per cent of the transit traffic in the ECOWAS sub-region.
This route is also a component of the Lagos-Kano-Jibiya (LAKAJI) corridor which extends from Lagos through Ogun, Oyo, Kwara, Niger, Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa and Kastina states in Nigeria. The LAKAJI corridor compliments the trade route from Abidjan through Cotonou to Niamey and even to Libya and Egypt.
The significant of this corridor as an economic, cultural and political platform for regional integration of West Africa cannot be over emphasized.
Seme Area Command is the platform for the sustenance of the regional integration expected to be driven through the ECOWAS Protocol on the free movement of persons, goods, and services, the implementation of the various trade policies of the sub-region and the continent especially the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) and the emerging African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The objective of the ETLS and AfCFTA is to liberalise trade by abolishing customs duties and fees on imports and exports and the elimination of non-tariff barriers among member states. It is intended to achieve unhindered market access to the countries of the sub-region. Seme Area Command has worked assiduously to ensure that the region optimises this expectation.
ECOWAS Within The Continental Trade Blocs
Among the trade blocs in Africa, the ECOWAS region has a population of 428.6 million people and ranks second in Africa after East Africa region with a population of 474.9 million people. It is expected that the potential inherent in this advantageous position will be translated to increased trade among countries of the ECOWAS subregion especially between Nigeria and the Republic of Benin with a combined population of nearly 250 million people.
Sadly, ECOWAS ranks fourth at 10 per cent when it comes to trade within the African Continent. Southern African Development Community (SADC) with a population of 69.2 million people ranks first in trading among themselves at 32. 12 percent, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) at 20.32 per cent, and Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) at 16.59 per cent. This is an indication that the ECOWAS region is yet to maximize the gains of ETLS. Again, this underscores the level of our limited preparedness for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Trade Between Nigeria And Proximate Neigbhours
Several factors have been adjudged to hamper trade (between Nigeria and her proximate neighbour) within the sub-region especially transit trade across the countries and along the corridor. There have been several complaints by operators against the closure of the borders, the non-adherence to transit agreements signed under the ECOWAS, World Trade Organisation (WTO), World Customs Organisation (WCO) and the General Agreement on Trade and Tariff.
Fiscal Policies, Strategies And Scorecard
Upon my assumption of duty on the 23 of January, 2023, I pledged to adopt new strategies to boost trade while enforcing the nation’s anti-smuggling laws along the Abidjan Lagos Corridor (ALCO) in line with the ECOWAS protocols on free movement of goods and persons.
I also promised along with officers and men to encourage compliant traders along the corridor bearing in mind the challenges of the JBP as one that is still recovering from the effects of the border closure. We have kept faith with that as will be explained in due course.
It is important to note that the Nigeria 2022 Fiscal Policy Measures by the Federal Ministry of Finance lifted the ban on export of goods imported into Nigeria hitherto prohibited under item 8 Schedule 6 of the Common External Tariff. It is hoped that our stakeholders take full advantage of this gesture while our brothers from other countries in the sub-region particularly the Republic of Benin will reciprocate this gesture where there are existing trade barriers.
It is gratifying to note that the CGC and the government of both countries and the stakeholders are all on the same page regarding the need to improve our relationship with a view to maximize the opportunities offered by the proximity of our two countries to the border and develop trade along the corridor.
This address will not be complete without mentioning notable impacts made by the Command in our key performance indicators which are revenue collection and anti-smuggling operations.
The revenue target for the Command for the year 2023 is One Billion Nine Hundred and Sixty Million Naira Only. As at this morning the 8th of September, 2023 the Command has collected One Billion Nine Hundred and Four Million, Four Hundred and Fifty-Nine Thousand, Three Hundred and Ninety Naira, Seventy Seven Kobo (N1,904,459, 390.77) only. This represents 97.2% of N1,960,000,000 allotted target for the year 2023.
In the corresponding period under review for year 2022, the revenue was Eight Hundred and Eighty Five Million, Five Hundred and Forty Three Thousand, Ninety Eight Naira Eleven Kobo (N885,543,098.11) The implication is that the Commands revenue profile witnessed a tremendous increase of N1, 018,916, 292. 33 (51.98%).
This was a result of painstaking efforts made by the leadership of the Command in partnership with our stakeholders to ensure compliance with our revenue generation agenda.
In the area of anti-smuggling operation, you are already conversant with our past headline seizures (fake six million US dollars equivalent to two billion seven hundred million (N2.7 B) Naira). This is in addition to other notable seizures recorded between January and August 2023.
The duty paid value for items seized for the period January to 8th September 2023 is One Billion, Eight Hundred and Twenty Seven Million, Three Hundred and Sixty Two Thousand, Six Hundred and Nineteen Naira (1, 827, 362, 619. 00)
Comptroller Dera nnadi mni
With a rich résumé in customs administration and vast knowledge in core operational areas which cuts across research and planning, classification and tariff, ICT and revenue, training and enforcement, industry players regard Nnadi as belonging in the front row of the minders of the Nigeria Customs Service.
Unassuming and bustling with eclectic demeanour, he has had the rare privilege of being party to some of the processes leading to the drawing up of a number a trade and bilateral agreements and protocols, and the institutionalization of same, hence he fits unequivocally as an envoy of the customs service.
By providence, he has also had the privilege of maintaining and strengthening these protocols across trans-border gateways at control levels having served as the customs area controller in Ogun Command 11 before his current assignment at Seme, the biggest and busiest trans-border route linking Nigeria with the outside world.
A product of intellectual power house, there is no gainsaying that Nnadi has contributed significantly in building and enriching the trans-border trade processes, building synergy across critical value chains and maintaining sensitive, community, cultural and diplomatic values and affinities essential for social and economic cohesion.
Structured Anti-smuggling System
He says that the command have a well structured anti-smuggling operation that functions effectively with minimal supervision, noting that the command’s anti-smuggling architecture remains largely impregnable, strong, reliable and focused.
Nnadi who is billed to resume anytime as the new Customs Area Controller, Tin Can island Port Command attributed the successes recorded within his short stint at Seme to the dedication of his officers and men, some of who got commendation letters from the Comptroller General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi MFR; based on his recommendation.
A team leader, Nnadi applauded the officers and men and urged them to remain committed to service for fatherland and the ideals and projections of the Nigeria customs Service in terms of trade facilitation and national security; assuring the officers that their service to the nation is appreciated and will not be forgotten.
He said, “If anybody is thinking that because Nnadi is now going away and that they can try their luck, they are living in fool’s paradise. It is not about me, it is about these our fine officers and men, it is about the structure we have in place, which has given these officers the enablement to monitor and strike, it is about our well structured intelligence gathering system both by the headquarters and at the command level.
“Some of our officers and men will receive commendation letters from the CGC for their outstanding performances; they are always there and have proved very reliable, committed and hardworking.
“So, those thinking that if after I go away they can beat the system are mistaken, l inherited this structure and it will remain there after l move, l am the only one going away on transfer, our gallant and trusted officers are right here and nobody can try their resolve”, adding:
“The fact that the CGC is commending them specially tells us that they are not to joked with, whoever tries them will meet their waterloo just like the owners of the seizures we have just seen at the warehouse did. As the human component of our anti-smuggling structure, these fine officers are highly motivated and they are capable of responding to any surprises, so wherever these unscrupulous traders are coming from, we will meet, challenge and stop them”, he stated.
A total 18 officers received the CGC Commendation Letter as well as the CAC’s Commendation Letter which was officially presented to the beneficiaries by the CAC and some of his management staffs.
Nnadi explained that the commendation which is in line with the service’s culture of encouraging its personnel, officers and men is related to the affected officers seizures of fake Six million USD ($6,000,000) currency, Fifteen (15) fake international passports and Ten (10) Driver’s license, and that of Donkey skins in January, 2023 and the present seizure we just finished seeing.
Among officers recognized for their exceptional performances are the OC Operations, AC ID Musa, OC Gbaji, SC UM Baaj, SC ED Ashinze and L Hassan.