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Customs

MBA Musa: a silent working machine at Tin Can Customs

By Eyewitness Reporter

 

His mien gives him away as a harmless, non-assuming introvert.

But beneath his calm look lies a tough, determined and uncompromising work attitude that has distinguished the Tin Can command of the Nigeria Customs service as one of the biggest revenue baskets of the service.

Musa Baba Abdulahi(MBA), the  Customs Area Comptroller of the Tin Can command, bestrides the command like a gentle giant.

He presides over the command reputed as the second cash cow for the Nigeria Customs Service with unassuming dexterity and clinical efficiency.

Musa is not given to publicity. He hardly grants press interviews.

He loathes calling the press to flaunt his achievements at the command.

He believes that aspect is better handled by his equally versatile  Public Relations Officer,  Uche Ejesieme, who has equally mastered and emulated the work ethics of his boss.

While he leaves the talking to his spokesman, Musa marshals his officers to do the work he was mandated: revenue collection, trade facilitation, discouragement of anti- illicit practices such as importation of contraband and seamless Customs operations.

He believes his works and achievements are enough to publicise him.

So, while his colleagues enjoy generous publicity, Musa daily buries his head in his works, churning out impressive results which have consistently screamed the name of the command to the hearing of his superior officers at Abuja.

His consistent impressive performance at the command has however adequately compensated for his almost anonymity at the unit.

No wonder his no-nonsense boss, Col. Hammed Ali, the Comptroller-General of Customs, seems to have ” forgotten” to redeploy him from the command as the case of other area Comptrollers whom he changes at will.Against the norm of high mortality of the tenures of Area Comptrollers at the Commands, Musa has spent three years two months so far as the helmsman of the Tin Can Command.

And the CGC seems not in a hurry to look in his direction for a change yet except when it is time for his elevation to the next rank.

Whoever knows the practice of the CGC who shuffles his field commanders at the drop of his hat, then the ‘ long’ and running tenure of Musa is a feat “unheard of” under the administration of Col. Ali.

While all other commands, especially the ‘grade A’ commands,  have experienced multiple turnovers of the CACs in the past years, the Tin Can Command has enjoyed relative stability in terms of changes in helmsmen since February 2018 when Musa berthed at the Tin Can Command.

But it would be fallacious to assume that the eagle- eye, highly mobile CGC overlooked or  ‘forgot’ to include Musa in the litany of redeployments that have come to characterise his administration, but it seems Musa is “playing the match according to the match plan” of his coach.

In football, you don’t change a winning team.

At his resumption of office as the CGC in September 2015, Hameed Ali pointedly told his senior officers in Abuja about his unambiguous mission to the Customs.

“I have come to carry out the mandate of Mr. President to reform Customs, to restructure Customs, and to increase the revenue generation.

“I don’t think that is ambiguous. I don’t think that is cumbersome. It is precise and I believe that is what all of you are here to do” the CGC had then said six years ago.

So Musa has stayed this long because he knew and mastered the rules of engagement.

Statistics show why Musa has wormed his way into the heart of his boss, a feat that is almost inconceivable given the deadpan expression the CGC always wears which gives him away as someone who doesn’t indulge in needless emotions.

When he was redeployed from the office of the CGC to Tin Can Command on February 1st, 2018, Musa had a clear understanding of his vision and mission to the command.

“Part of my key mandates includes trade facilitation, driving of seamless ease of doing business, provision of coordinating roles in port operations, and strict maintenance of national security at the ports.

“The Command will continue to maintain lead in revenue generation which remains a core function of the Customs,” he said at his maiden press conference in 2018.

This has therefore been the driving force of MBA since he berthed at the Tin Can command where he has consolidated on revenue generation, trade facilitation, capacity building, and cordial working relationship with other stakeholders through constant engagement that has resulted in seamless operations.
 
In 2018 when he took over, he met N62 billion in the revenue coffers bequeathed to him by his predecessor out of the N354 billion target for that year.
 
But he went on to surpass the revenue projection.
 
In 2019, he brushed aside the N342 billion revenue target with more than N4 billion in excess when the command generated N346.508 billion.
 
Expectedly, the command was greatly challenged in its 2020 revenue drive due to the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic which affected importations.
 
Ironically, that was the year the command, relying on its track records of revenue successes, confidently raised the N504 billion target given to it by the Customs headquarters to N540 billion, which was about 70 percent higher than the previous year’s.
The command started on a brighter revenue note in 2021 despite the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic when it raked in N112.7 billion within the first three months of the year, a figure that was N21.1 billion higher than the N91.6 billion realised within the same period in 2020.

“The comparative analysis of quarter one revenue collection from 2018 to 2021 are as follows: in 2018, N76,789,721,107.42; in 2019, N78,857,106,168.27; and in 2020, N91,635,998,490.73,” the customs boss said

“This improvement is despite the twin threat to lives and livelihood posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The command has inspired their officers to continue to work hard while observing all the safety measures to achieve the best of performance.

“We kept our lines of communication open and concerted effort was made to ensure that the supply chain is not disrupted,” Musa said of the geometric increase in revenue performance since he took over.

The success of Musa lies in his heavy deployment of technology to track revenue, plug revenue leakages, and reduce excessive physical contacts between officers and the trading public which he believes will minimise corruption.

He also put much emphasis on building human capacity as he believes well-trained and motivated officers will enhance efficient service delivery.

As a result, officers are being trained on a regular basis on some of the core functions of the customs in the areas of classification, risk management, and data management, the areas in which Musa himself is well versed as a Mining Engineer who joined the service as a Cadet Officer in 1990,  and had undergone several trainings in Valuation and Classification, which are the core duties of the Nigerian Customs Service.

Trade facilitation holds as much passion for Musa as revenue generation.

This was why at his resumption of duties in 2018, he reinvigorated the Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC) which he personally heads, and made his PRO the deputy to sit daily and resolve all issues arising from valuation within six hours.

This was unlike the previous arrangement when the committee sat two times a week.

He also deployed and beefed up the Time Release study tool to determine the actual time required for the release and clearance of goods right from the time the cargo arrives to the physical release from Customs’ control.

Time Release study was a strategic tool that was capable of identifying bottlenecks in the trade value chain and creating an enabling environment for effective and efficient customs operations.

Musa made judicious use of all these tools and methods which create a conducive, customers- friendly environment that facilitate the quick clearance of goods and which in turn boosts his revenue drive.

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Customs

Exclusive! Customs heads to court to vacate injunction against Customs concession project

CGC, Ali

 

—-accuses aggrieved litigants of pulling out of project

Eyewitness Reporter

The Nigeria Customs Service has instructed its legal team to head to court in a bid to vacate the restraining order on the implementation of the $3.2billion Customs concession programme.

A Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday has restrained the Federal Government from enforcing or giving effect to an agreement on the Customs Modernisation Project otherwise known as E- custom allegedly executed by its agents on May 30, 2022.

Justice Inyang Ekwo issued the orders while ruling on an ex-parte motion filed by two firms – E-Customs HC Project Limited and Bionica Technologies (West Africa) Limited, which was argued on Friday by their lawyer, Anone Usman.

However, the Nigeria Customs, through its National Public Relations Officer, Deputy Comptroller Timi Bomodi, said the service will go to court to challenge the order.

In an exclusive interview with our reporter, Bomodi declared that the management of the agency will not engage in what he called small talk over the matter that is already in court because that would be sub-judicial.

”We will go to court”, he declared emphatically.

We can’t be making small talk over a matter that is already in court, that will be sub judicial.

”Customs will make its reaction in court and that will be for the public to judge what the issues are”, the Customs spokesman stated.

He further explained that the litigants, E-customs HC Project Limited and Bionica Technologies (West Africa) Limited, pulled out of the agreement on their own accord when they said they could not accept the terms and conditions of the projects.

Bomodi stated that the Trade Modernization Project Limited; Huawei Technologies Limited and African Finance Corporation, who eventually won the concession bid, agreed with the same terms and conditions that the litigants rejected for the same amount.

”The people that took the Customs to court were in the beginning part of the process, they disagreed with certain parts of the agreement and they couldn’t go forward.

”Of course, if you have some people who disagreed with what you are planning together and they pulled out and they were not asked to leave, they pulled out on their own, does that mean because they were there in the beginning, the project cannot go on?”, he asked rhetorically.

”That doesn’t make sense.

”The project was conceived to help the service better and those that we started the journey together couldn’t agree with the terms and conditions of the project and they left and some other people came in to take up their slot.

”Those ones said they could achieve the same results with the same terms and conditions which the other party rejected” Bomodi said.

He stated that the Customs shall argue its case in the court and will leave the judge to decide the merit or otherwise of the case.

Customs shall be in court and do the needful”, the Customs spokesman concluded with emphasis.

The court, on Friday, also issued an order of interim injunction against the Federal Government or its agents acting through the Federal Executive Council from retrospectively ratifying the decision to concession the Customs Modernisation Project also known as the e- custom project to Trade Modernization Project Limited, Huawei Technologies Company Limited and African Finance Corporation.

The restraining order issued by Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Abuja Division of the court shall last till the hearing and the determination of a suit brought against the Federal Government and other parties by two aggrieved companies.

The two aggrieved companies, E-customs HC Project Limited and Bionica Technologies (West Africa) Limited jointly challenged the alleged unlawful and fraudulent concession of the E-custom project to the defendants.

Counsel to the two aggrieved companies, Anone Usman, had on behalf of the two plaintiffs, argued an ex-parte application praying the Federal High Court for the interim orders against the defendants to protect the interest of his clients.

Justice Ekwo, while ruling on the ex-parte application, granted the prayers of the plaintiff having placed sufficient evidence of interest in the concession project.

The judge also granted permission to the aggrieved companies to serve a writ of summons and all other filed processes on the African Finance Corporation at its head office, located in Ikoyi, Lagos through DHL courier services.

Defendants in the suit are the Federal Government of Nigeria; Attorney-General of the Federation; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning; the Infrastructure Regulatory Concession Commission; Nigeria Customs Service; Trade Modernization Project Limited; Huawei Technologies Limited; African Finance Corporation and Bergman Security Consultant and Supply Limited being 1st to 9th defendants respectively.

Justice Ekwo subsequently fixed June 28 for the hearing in the matter.

The two plaintiffs had in their statement of claim narrated how they proposed to carry out customs modernization project through several government officials for the benefit of the Nigeria Customs Service.

They claimed that after a series of meetings and negotiations with some of the defendants, President Muhammadu Buhari granted anticipated approval for the e- custom Project

They averred that on September 2, 2020, the Minister of Finance presented a memo number EC2020/153 to the Federal Executive Council, (FEC) the highest decision-making body of the Federal Government, and secured approval for the two plaintiffs to be granted the concession.

Plaintiffs further claimed that trouble started when the Nigeria Customs Service unilaterally reviewed the FEC approval and imposed other conditions among which are the shareholding formula and governance structure.

They claimed that the power of the NCS to unilaterally review FEC approval was protested and that the Comptroller General of Customs stood his ground.

Plaintiff asserted that to their surprise, they read in the news that the Nigeria Customs Service had executed a concession agreement with Trade Modernization Project on May 30, 2022, Huawei Technologies Company and African Finance Corporation, in total breach of the Concession Agreement vetted by the AGF in conjunction with the Minister of Finance.

They averred that Trade Modernization Project was incorporated April 2022 at the Corporate Affairs Commission with one Alhaji Saleh Amodu, a close friend of the Comptroller General of Customs as the chairman.

Plaintiff asserted that the new company, having been just incorporated in April 2022, could not have obtained and did not obtain the full business case compliance certificate from the Infrastructure Regulatory Concession Commission and the approval of the Federal Executive Council to carry out the e- custom project.

They, therefore, asked the court to make a declaration that the decisions of the Federal Government and its agents to enter into a concession agreement with Trade Modernization Project, Huawei Technologies Company and African Finance Corporation in respect of the e-customs project is illegal, null and void, having been made in gross violation of Section 2 of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission Act 2005.

They also asked the court to declare that E-customs HC Project Limited is the approved and rightful concessionaire for the e-customs project as approved by the Federal Executive Council at its meeting of September 2, 2020 and in line with Section 2 of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Act.

They also applied for an order of the court directing the Federal Government through the AGF, Finance Minister, ICRC and NCS to consummate the E- custom project with the 1st plaintiff as approved by FEC in September 2020.

Besides, the two plaintiffs asked the court to compel the defendants to pay them a sum of Two Hundred Million Naira as the cost of litigation.

The Federal Government had on May 30, 2022  signed the e-Customs concession agreement with Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) and China’s Huawei Technologies Limited.

The Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Hameed Ali, while signing the agreement in Abuja, enthused that the implementation of the project will generate a revenue of $176 billion over the next 20 years.

Ali said, the e-Customs concession project would ease the cost of doing business, boost revenue, enhance productivity and put a stop to every arbitrariness in the service.

“The $3.2 billion e-Customs project to be financed by the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) and managed by Huawei Technologies Limited under a 20-year concession window, when fully implemented, will quadruple Customs’ current N210 billion average monthly revenue collection” Ali declared.

The agents who allegedly executed the disputed concession agreement are the Nigeria Customs Service, Trade Modernization Project Limited, Huawei Technologies Company Nigeria Limited and African Finance Corporation.

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Customs

Apapa Customs frustrates covert attempt to exit illicit drugs from port

—–intercepts 300 cartons of tramadol in separate seizures
Eyewitness reporter
Deploying intelligence through credible information and collaboration with other government agencies, the Apapa Customs of the Nigeria Customs Service has intercepted a cache of illicit drugs in two separate seizures.
On Thursday, the command showcased 150 cartons of tramadol containing 4,500,000 tablets worth about N3.7bn.
100 cartons of these illicit drugs were interdicted in Jaelith bonded terminal while the 50 other cartons were uncovered at ESS Libra terminal, Ikorodu.
However, on Friday, the command, under the leadership of Comptroller Ibrahim Malanta Yusuf, showcased a similar seizure of 150 cartons of tramadol.
According to Comptroller Yusuf, the illicit drugs were laden in a 1x 20 container marked PCIU 0183241 which was declared as Static Converter and Switches.
Addressing journalists Friday at the APMT where the seizure was made, Comptroller Yusuf declared that the command received credible intelligence and the container movement was tracked, traced from the port of loading in Singapore through Hong Kong and China before it was intercepted at Apapa port, the port of destination, having passed through about four ports to cover its track.
Yusuf said that, when the container was offloaded at the APMT, the officers immediately ordered its dropping for examination before the importer could transit the offensive consignment.
“On examination of the container, there are 69 cartons of 250 mg tramadol and 81 250 cartons of tramadol.
Each of the cartons contains 72 rolls, each roll contains 10 packets, each packet contains 10 sachets while each sachet contains 10 tablets”, CAC said.
Comptroller Yusuf warned that Apapa Command is not a safe haven for the importation of illicit drugs as intelligence officers will continue to intercept such uncustoms goods.
He revealed that the command has a robust inter-agency collaboration with other government agencies and the closely- knitted bond among them has been solid, producing spectacular seizure results.
“We shall continue to arrest the perpetrators of this illicit trade and bring them to book” the Customs chief stated.
He declared that information to unravel the culprits behind the illicit consignment is ongoing.
“We have a bill of laden which is a cardinal point that there is a declaration and that is why we are able to trace and intercept this illicit consignment.
An investigation is going on and our searchlight is on the description of the consignee on the bill of laden” Comptroller Yusuf stated.
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Customs

20 containers of gold, silver ore stolen within Customs control in biggest heist operation.

Eyewitness reporter with agency report

The Mexican Customs Authority has announced the biggest heist in the history of the port when 20 containers laden with expensive gold, silver Ore and television disappeared from a freight yard within the Mexican Customs control.

According to the Head of Mexican Customs, Horacio Duarte, thieves stole the shipping containers this month from a freight yard in what was described as an organised crime.

Horacio Duarte told the Associated Press that the theft was the result of “a very serious organized crime operation.”
The region, known as the state of Colima, is dominated by the Jalisco Cartel, a semi-militarized group of criminals that is led by Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, a drug trafficker who is known as the most-wanted man in Mexico, as well as one of the most-wanted in the US.
The Mexican Employers Federation and Mexico Customs Regulations did not respond to a request for comment from Insider.

The theft took place earlier this month but was not reported until Monday.Local newspaper, El Pais, reported that over a dozen fully-armed thieves broke into a private freight yard near a port in Manzanillo, dubbing it the “biggest heist’ in the port’s history.

The thieves reportedly gagged the guards at the yard and took eight hours to pick out the high-value shipping containers.

El Pais reported that the men knew how to use the cranes and other gear at the location and connected the containers to several trucks before driving away.

“It is unprecedented, there had been no robbery of this nature before this,” Gustavo Adrin Joya, a spokesperson for the security department of Colima state, said in a statement to El Pais.

The goods have not been seen since then, the local newspaper reported.

Jos Medina Mora, President of the Mexican Employers Federation, told Associated Press the theft is a sign that safety concerns in the nation are growing.

El Pais reported that the port is a main thoroughfare for the cartel, especially for unloading synthetic drugs that are made in Mexico and sold in the US.

While freight theft is not uncommon, it is unusual for dozens of containers to be stolen at once.

 CargoNet’s Vice President of operations, Keith Lewis, told Insider freight yards can be a vulnerable place for high-value goods.

“A shipment is most vulnerable anytime it is parked,” Lewis said.

In 2020, cargo theft hit a record in the US as hundreds of thousands of shipping containers flooded ports and nearby shipping yards amid the supply-chain crisis.

Lewis said that multi-million dollar shipments like containers full of semiconductor chips or television sets are often fitted with security devices in the US, including covert trackers and specialty locks to deter thieves.

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