The ubiquitous Chinese is gradually getting a foothold in the nation’s economy.
On May 30th, 2022, the controversial concession of the Nigeria Customs Service was consummated at the national headquarters of the service in Abuja.
Despite the outcry of stakeholders against the concession of the operations of the Nigeria Customs Service, the Federal Government signed a tripartite concession agreement with a Chinese company, Huawei Technologies, and their Nigerian counterparts, Trade Modernisation Project Limited with Africa Finance Corporation as the lead financiers.
The agreement was facilitated and midwifed by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission(ICRC).
The concessionaires, under the agreement, will drive the modernisation project for 20 years.
Last Monday’s consummation of the concession agreement was preceded by the approval granted by the Federal Government in September 2020 to concede the operations of the customs to concessionaires
The concession agreement, which spans a period of 20 years, will involve the modernisation of the processes and procedures of the Nigeria Customs Service, including its revenue generation which the concessionaires will take over through which they are to recoup their $3.2 billion investments.
Expectedly, the decision of the Federal government, which was clinically executed in the mould of a coup d’é tat, caught many industry stakeholders pants down.
It also generated animated discussion as the approval and eventual concession was granted in defiance to the popular wish of the operators.
Since 2019, when the industry got wind of this concession deal before the 2020 approval, there has been concerted opposition mounted by the aghast operators who felt the move was an attempt to give away our common patrimony to the foreign interests.
Then, Hon. Jerry Alagbaso, a former Customs chief and erstwhile member of the House of Representatives, rallied the National Assembly against the move.
But to the chagrin of everyone, the Federal government pulled a fast one on all the antagonists of the project.
We are less disconcerted over this concession deal which we believe was willing away the nation’s cash cow for 20 years to the foreign imperialists and their local collaborators.
We are at a loss on which powerful forces could have forced the hands of the Federal government to enter into this type of deal against the popular counsel of knowledgeable stakeholders.
Modernisation of Customs, they said.
What is there to modernise in the processes and procedures of the Nigeria Customs Service?
At the risk of being controverted, we dare say the Nigeria Customs has the most advanced form of automation process among the government agencies in the industry and one of the most automated in Africa.
The Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Wamkele Mene said as much when he visited Apapa Customs command last week.
Mr. Mene said Nigeria Customs has the most advanced and comprehensive automation programme among its peers in Africa.
The only challenge which the service has is human.
Some of the men and officers of the service are clearly aversed to full automation due to their selfish and pecuniary interests.
The automation process will eliminate human contacts which is the avenue for extortion and exploitation.
Since 2003, Nigeria Customs has gone through a series of automation processes that have made its processes and procedures seamless.
The Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) and its advanced form of ASYCUDA+, ASYCUDA++, the Nigeria Customs Integrated System (NCIS1 &11), and Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) are some of the automation platforms created by the customs management over the years to make customs operations seamless.
Even, in 2013, the Service developed a web-based application to provide information and guidelines for international trade business processors, export and transit trade which is called Nigeria trade Portal which is interactive.
To our mind, what the service needs is to upgrade these automated platforms, and integrate them with other players in the cargo documentation and clearance chains under the neglected single window project.
With adequate capital outlay, we believe Nigeria Customs can achieve full automation status without the involvement of foreign economic imperialists, aided and abetted by their avaricious local collaborators.
The anti- automation officers, who are averred to technology due to their selfish interests, could be reformed.
If they are adamant, they could be shipped out.
Cargo scanning could be emphasised while physical examination of cargoes could be sparingly used.
With these and all other automation platforms well integrated into the single-window under the supervision of a willing Customs administration, the Nigeria Customs will be a world-class agency.
We are however least surprised at the tenacity of these economic vultures in their quest to lay hands on the Nigeria Customs Service, which is gradually emerging as the cash cow of the nation.
Apart from oil, maritime is the second-highest revenue earner for the country and Nigeria Customs plays a key role in this regard.
With the yearly earnings in the excess of a conservative estimate of trillions of naira and the capacity to do more, as well as the dwindling earnings from oil due to the global crisis in the oil market, the maritime industry nay Nigeria Customs is understandably the preferred bride for these economic speculators.
Various attempts have been made in the past to dip their hands in the Customs’ till without success.
In 2011, the illegal concession of Customs key functions between the ministry of finance and a company called Single Window System and Technologies was shot down.
In 2017, another move for Customs modernisation was made by the technical committee on the Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme(CISS) which was pretentiously acting on behalf of the Federal government, with a technical partner called Adani system Nigeria limited.
The attempt, which sought to concession the Customs then for 25 years, was frustrated.
However, in a blatant disregard for popular opinion, the Federal government, after several failed attempts, eventually forced down the throat of the unwilling stakeholders, the concession of the agency.
However, the deeds have been done.
Any further lamentation by the stakeholders on the issue is crying over spilled milk.
Now that the government has had its way, we can only hope that its aspirations for the concession will be realised.
The Minister of Finance, Budget, and Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has said the government stands to realise $176 billion from the project without spending a Kobo.
The question is how much will the concessionaires realise within the 20- year period of the deal beyond the $3.2billion investments they are expected to sink into the project?
What would be the fate of the customs officers whose jobs will be affected by the take-over of the revenue functions of the agency?
Even though the Comptroller General of the service, Col. Hameed Ali, has allayed the fear of job loss, the redundancy of some categories of officers could not be totally ruled out.
It is instructive to note that one of the two core functions of the customs, which is revenue generation, has now been concessioned under the guise of this new modernisation project, leaving them with the anti-smuggling function.
We hope rather than render some crop of officers reductant which may lead to possible right-sizing of staff, they could be redeployed to beef up the anti-smuggling function of the service.
We are worried about the involvement of the Chinese in the project as represented by Huawei which serves as a technical partner.
The ubiquitous Chinese have gradually become a leech on Nigeria, sucking on the economy of the nation.
We can only hope that the modernisation project will leave the Nigeria Customs service better than it met it.
We equally hope the project will not be sabotaged by disgruntled insiders whose means of livelihood is being threatened.
The misadventure of the Professional Import Duty Administrators (PIDA) between 1996 and 2000 in the Nigeria Customs Service is still poignant in the memory of those who were in the know.
At that period, a firm of an accounting/consultant was engaged as professional Import Duty Administrators to complement the Nigeria Customs Service in the task of revenue generation.
They left the service worst off than they met it.
We appeal to the Federal government to ensure that this project transforms the service into a technologically-driven agency whose operations are seamless and paperless.
Customs gives importers of improperly imported vehicles soft landing
The giant stride of Comptroller Kolade as anti-smuggling czar
One year after Comptroller Kayode Kolade assumed office on the 25th January 2023 at the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone C of the Nigeria Customs Service, it has not been business as usual for economic saboteurs who ply the Eastern region to perpetuate their enterprise.
The FOU Zone C in Port Harcourt is the South East and South South Region including Bayelsa, Port Harcourt 1 and 2, Edo, Delta, Cross River and Akwa Ibom.
Compt Kolade was enlisted into the Superintendent Cadre of the Nigeria Customs Service in 1989, making tremendous progress by rising recently to the rank of Comptroller of Customs in 2024.
He has worked in various Customs Formations in different capacities.
To mention but just a few, he was DC in charge of the SIFAX bonded terminal in Apapa Port, he was D/C B1 Tincan Island Port, a position he occupied before he got appointed as the Acting Comptroller, Federal Operations Unit Zone C Owerri-based on his track records in revenue and anti-smuggling exploits.
He was also the Coordinator of, the Joint Border Patrol Team, Code-named: Border Drill Sector 1 Port Harcourt in 2018. Earlier in his career path, he has worked at Seme Border, KLT, FOU A and Headquarters respectively
Kayode Kolade was appointed to pilot the affairs of the Federal Operations Unit Zone ‘C’ Owerri since January 2023 where his giant record speaks volumes.
Under the cerebral anti-smuggling czar, the Federal Operations Unit FOU, Zone “C” seized goods worth over N 5 billion in the total Duty Paid Value (DPV) category in the 2023 fiscal year.
Some of the items seized were pangolin scales, foreign parboiled rice, cannabis sativa (AKA Indian hemp), fake pharmaceutical products, tramadol, used vehicles, used tyres, used clothing and explosive raw materials among others.
As a result of the interventions of officers of the zone under Comptroller Kolade’s watch in checkmating the activities of fraudulent agents at the seaports, lots of revenues, hitherto lost, amounting to over N152 million were recovered.
Within the first three months of his resumption at Zone C, Comptroller Kolade dealt the first blow on smugglers with the interception of contraband goods valued at N2.8 billion between January 25 and March 25.
The seized items include five sacks of pangolin scales, 398 sacks of Indian hemp, weighing 8,756kg and another 2,308 compressed parcels of Indian hemp of 1kg each.
The five sacks of pangolin scales weighing 413.1kg and the 11,064kg of Indian hemp are the highest if not arguably the first seizure of such endangered species and hard drugs in the history of the zone.
Other seizures were 2,600 bottles of codeine-based cough syrup packed in 26 cartons, three exotic bulletproof vehicles, 931 jumbo bales of second-hand clothing and 484 bags of smuggled rice.
Also intercepted were 31 cartons of various medicaments including tramadol; 32 jerry cans of petrol and 540 pieces of used tyres.
Between July 25 and September 23, 2023, the FOU Zone C dealt another major blow on smugglers with the interception of cannabis sativa, raw materials for the production of explosive devices, as well as other contraband with a Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N1.6 billion.The Zone also arrested nine suspects in connection with the seizures.
Eagle-eyed officers of the command also intercepted nine sacks of 50kg each of explosive materials namely fertilizer, device cables and superpower chemicals.
The Superpower 90 which was intercepted by the unit is designed for priming applications and as a column explosive in surface and underground mining and general blasting
Other items seized include 1,329 bags of 50kg smuggled foreign rice; 417 sacks of cannabis sativa weighing 9,194kg and 627 compressed parcels of the same substance totaling 627kg.
Also impounded are one unit of an armored bullion van, 761 jumbo bales of second-hand clothing, and 883 cartons of various.
unregistered/expired medicaments, 192 packets of 225mg of tramadol, 100 cartons of wine, 5,737 pieces of used pneumatic tyres and 335 cartons of smuggled foreign tomato paste.
Meanwhile, freight forwarders operating in the maritime sector have commended the sagacity of Comptroller Kayode Kolade as a disciplined officer and a fine gentleman.
He has attended many courses as Nigeria Customs representative both locally and internationally, worthy of mention includes: INDIA trip courses on enforcement of Government Fiscal policy and Revenue, among others.
He is a recipient of many Awards in recognition of his outstanding achievements.
The most cherished is the commendation letter for outstanding performance in anti-smuggling operations from the former Comptroller General of Customs Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd) in 2017 while he was the coordinator of CGC Strike Force Team Zone ‘C’ covering the South-South/South-East States.
He also received a lot of Merit Awards as Best Enforcement Officer at the various Customs formations where he worked from the media, too numerous to mention.
Customs suspends officer, hands over to Police over alleged collection of N.5 million bribe from car buyer
The Eyewitness Reporter
He added that “The Comptroller General of Customs Bashir Adewale Adeniyi and his Management team frowned at such unruly behavior as such, the disciplinary committee will be diligent and firm.
Comptroller Chedi thereafter handed over the suspected Officer to the APM Customs Police Unit for further investigation.
“This unprofessional and ungodly act will not be condoned. A thorough investigation has just commenced,” concluded the irate Comptroller.
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