Aiming for growth: The Nigeria Customs Service consolidates reforms in trade facilitation and borders security

Trade facilitation in Nigeria has remained subdued due to impediments that frustrate entrepreneurs and large business communities from effortlessly carrying on their entrepreneurial activities without hitches.

These challenges built up at the nation’s sea ports, and in most cases, rested on the shoulders of the Nigeria Customs Services (NCS).

There is no doubt, that the Ag. Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, has in 100 days, at the helm of affairs of NCS, written his name in gold in his pursuit of achieving seamless and real-time trade facilitation.

The Nigeria Customs Service is now more focused on easing trade protocols, one of the core mandates of the Service, a catalyst towards achieving other mandates such as robust revenue generation and suppressing smuggling across the country.

The glowing rays of the NCS are conceptualized under the following subheads:

  • Enhanced revenue
  • Borders security
  • Trade facilitations

All of the above, are being delivered in an online, real-time service ecosystem.

Innovative NCS 

Nigeria Customs Service powered by Adeniyi’s innovative leadership stands him and the service out. Since his appointment on 19 June 2023 as the Acting Comptroller-General of NCS, he laid his hands on the plough and never looked back.

He effortlessly embarked on moves focused primarily on growing the nation’s economy by removing all visible and hidden encumbrances at the ports, which hampered inter/intra trade.

As part of his creative strategy in reviewing anti-smuggling operations of the NCS and boosting trade, the CGC dissolved the Strike force Team on July 17, 2023, and strengthened the Federal Operations Unit of the Service nationwide, geared towards enhancing trade, security and growing the economy.

He has embarked on strategic partnerships with all host communities & stakeholders in Nigeria’s import and export business and has successfully restored peace in the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, (ANLCA), after years of internal crisis, rancour and wranglings, which defied all solutions proffered by maritime stakeholders. Adeniyi, no doubt, acknowledged this on assuming office with a commitment to “prioritize efficiency in service delivery as the bedrock of trade facilitation and revenue generation.”

He not only assured that “no encumbrances shall impede trade,” He, in the past 100 days of his service as Ag. CGC has lived the talk.

According to him,

  • “We shall dismantle obstacles and foster a new culture of consultations and compliance” The delivery of such promise and assurance by Adeniyi, is not only visible and verifiable, but also serves as a testament that as the CG, NCS, Adeniyi is a round peg in a round hole.

Revenue Growth

It is therefore not surprising that the NCS exceeded its revenue target by N307 billion and N343 billion in July and August 2023 respectively.

  • “I am delighted to announce that we have consistently exceeded the monthly target collection, marking a remarkable departure from previous performances”.

He said that the ongoing revenue recovery review activities had contributed an additional eight billion Naira during the period.

  • “This underlines our commitment to revenue generation. Subject to unforeseen circumstances, we aim 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,” he said.

He further noted that,

  • “It is crucial for us to recognize the modern realities and challenges to the operations of Customs. In today’s interconnected and technologically advanced world, we face emerging threats that require our utmost attention.
  • E-commerce, global supply chains, and transnational criminal networks pose challenges to our role as custodians of trade facilitation and enforcement.
  • We must adapt to these changing landscapes, leveraging technology, intelligence-led operations, and effective risk management strategies.
  • Collaboration with international partners, law enforcement agencies, and customs administrations of other nations will be vital in combating illicit trade and securing our national interests.”

Demonstrating his commitment to strengthening the country’s economy and security and cross border security, on Tuesday, 12th September 2023, the Acting Comptroller-General of Customs, Bashir Adeniyi, entered into synergy with the Benin Republic to enhance trans-border security and regulate trade between the two countries.

Such collaboration with international partners gave birth to Adeniyi’s driven partnership that enhances the proper use of International Transit Guidelines to govern transit-bound goods and fees from Cotonou Port to Nigeria and integration of Nigeria into the Interconnected System for the Management of Goods in Transit.

He said the treaty between the two Agencies

  • “will prepare the way for an in-depth mechanism to harmonize the import prohibition lists of products banned by the two countries.”

In a joint communiqué signed by the Ag. Comptroller-General of the Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi MFR, and Director-General of the Beninese Customs, Alain Hinkati, highlighted the mutual interest of presidents Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Patrice Talon to strengthen the shared commitment to enhancing trade facilitation and promoting economic development between Nigeria & Benin Republic.

“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a moulder of consensus.” Martin Luther King Jr.

The Ag. CGC as a genuine leader who is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus, has entered into a partnership with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UNHabitat, to Combat Smuggling. Demonstrating the partnership, on Tuesday, 19 September 2023, he received Ambassadors of the UN-Habitat, led by Dr Raymond Edoh, at the Customs Headquarters, Abuja.

The CGC said,

  • “What we’re trying to do is to raise a modern Customs Service through partnering with stakeholders to achieve our goals because we value partnership, and I am happy that you extended your hands of collaboration to work with us.”

Dealer Banks now meet service agreements

In a significant development in the facilitation of trade, the leadership of the Nigeria Customs Service took decisive action in responding to the failure of selected Authorized Dealer Banks to meet Service-Level Agreements (SLAs) related to Customs Duty and statutory charge remittances.

This decision followed a thorough audit and due process, aligning with the NCS’ commitment to upholding transparency, accountability, and efficiency in revenue collection.

The primary objective is to ensure the accurate and timely remittance of customs duties and other essential funds for national development.

Despite the deactivation of these banks, the Comptroller-General of Customs implemented measures to minimize disruptions for importers and stakeholders within the trading ecosystem.

He assures the trading community that all pending assessments will undergo clearance processes in line with international best practices.

Importers who previously relied on the deactivated banks for duty payments were advised to utilize other Authorized Dealer Banks that comply with NCS regulations.

Stakeholders encountering challenges with a particular bank are encouraged to use alternatives that function appropriately.

The deactivated banks would be reactivated once they meet all regulatory requirements and settle outstanding remittances.

Collaborative efforts with financial regulators and stakeholders are underway to ensure the efficiency and integrity of the Customs Duty Collection system.

Groundbreaking partnerships

His engagements extended to fruitful discussions with relevant experts and donors, focusing on crucial areas such as conducting a Time Release Study (TRS), implementing the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) program; leadership, and management development.

These discussions underscore his commitment to comprehensive improvements and his inclination to adopt innovative solutions across various customs domains, ultimately enhancing operations.

To enhance Nigeria’s trade facilitation, economic growth security and border security, recently, the NCS made collaborative engagements to operationalize the use of geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) to enhance the efficiency of NCS enforcement operations and contribute to overall efficiency.

The Acting CGC has engaged in strategic discussions with partners such as the WCO, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the Japan Customs Administration. The discussions aim to garner support for establishing a customs laboratory, a significant milestone in enhancing customs operations and trade facilitation across Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the Ag. CGC, Adeniyi, acknowledged what he termed ‘a significant milestone in our journey towards Customs modernization.’

As he recently recalled, that, the Nigeria Customs Service witnessed a remarkable achievement with the signing of the new Customs ACT.

This ACT, he said ‘marks a pivotal moment in our efforts to enhance trade facilitation, streamline procedures, and strengthen enforcement measures.’

Under Adeniyi, the new Customs ACT is being implemented full scale, maintaining, providing and equipping the NCS with a robust legal framework that aligns with international best practices, ensuring transparency, efficiency, and compliance in their operations to reengineer 24/7 trade easing.

Ag. Adeniyi, with the backing of the new Customs ACT, has endowed the Nigeria Customs Services to effectively tackle emerging challenges, adapt to evolving trade dynamics, and safeguard the country’s national interests.

He has introduced innovative measures that have further enhanced customs processes, such as the implementation of advanced risk management systems, the integration of cutting-edge technologies, and the simplification of trade procedures.

These advancements recorded in a short period in office, have not only boosted revenue generation capabilities but equally promoted a conducive business environment that attracts investments and crystallizes economic growth.

Giving his words to ensure trade facilitation, Adeniyi said

  • “I assure you that we are fully committed to the successful implementation of the new Customs ACT.
  • We will work diligently to familiarize our officers and stakeholders with its provisions, ensuring its effective application across all our operations.
  • Through comprehensive training programs and continuous engagement, we will create awareness and understanding of the act’s importance in achieving our shared goals.”

New Customs ACT Team spirit

Adeniyi, no doubt is leading the Nigerian Customs Services to embrace the new era under the Customs ACT, its success, no doubt is collective success, driven by collective effort powered by his foresight leadership

The feat recorded by the Nigerian Customs under the leadership of the Acting Comptroller General (CGC) Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, reinforces the commitment of the services to lifting the country’s economy, enhancing trades as well as boosting the nation’s security, apparatus amongst other developmental goals.

Since assuming the role of Acting Comptroller General, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi’s dedicated officers have demonstrated unwavering commitment to their responsibilities, breaking new ground and making discoveries on new techniques deployed by criminals to bring in prohibited items into the country.

Their diligence and perseverance have been the cornerstone of the operations of the Nigerian Customs Services.

Their actions within the NCS have been driven by a deep sense of purpose guided by the matured renewed hope, that underpins the current administration’s vision.

Result oriented services

For instance, barely two weeks after assuming office, precisely on July 5th, 2023, during a joint operation with the Nigerian Police, the Department of State Security, the National Drug Law Enforcement and Administration (NDLEA) and the Nigerian Customs Intelligence Unit at the ports Terminal and Multi Services Command, a thorough physical examination of a 40ft container was conducted.

The examination revealed the concealment of 10 dangerous arms and various rounds of live ammunition inside plastic drums.

  • “Similarly, within the period, the Tincan Island Port Command of the Service, while acting on credible intelligence, a 1x40ft container was also subjected to a 100 per cent physical examination with the relevant security agencies at the ports.
  • The physical examination uncovered 18 arms, packets of cartridges and rounds of live ammunition inside plastic drums.”

Also, within the period, 12 different makes of rifles (five RZL 7hd Rifles, one Gamo Rifle, five Action Rifles and one Rz17 Tactical Rifle) were found in the drums.

The drums are said to have contained ten packets of cartridges, two packets of 9mm ammunition, 100 rounds of 9mm Winchester ammunition, a carton of Frontier cartridges and two packets of Buckshot ammunition.

Also, in the same period, during a routine patrol along Owode/Ajilete Axis of Ogun State by the officers of the joint border patrol team Sector 2, on Wednesday 12 July 2023, the team intercepted an unregistered Toyota Camry loaded with six sacks of charcoal, which was used to conceal three pump action rifles with 174 live cartridges.

  • “The driver of the vehicle, who knew the contents he was conveying vis a-vis the attendant consequences of his actions before the law, jumped into the bush and escaped arrest”
  • “In summary, a total of 31 riffles were impounded within the first two weeks of July 2023, consequent to Adeniyi’s assumption of office.
  • “Let me state at this point that the NCS has re-strategized its operations, while our officers have raised their levels of professionalism, and have keyed into the mantra of renewed hope aimed at facilitating legitimate trade. In doing this, we are assuring all compliant traders and importers that they have nothing to fear.”

We have re-injected new tactics to tackle the economic and security menace caused by recalcitrant importers and their agents.

The NCS human resources and logistics are collectively harnessed to combat and prevent economic sabotage.”

He has, however, implored importers and their agents to remain patriotic by making sincere declarations and to always be properly guided by the import/export prohibition list.

  • “I also urge the public to see security as a collective responsibility. We will appreciate the information of illegal importation and across-the-border movement of dangerous weapons used to create mayhem in our nation”

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