Analysts believe that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is strategic to not only achieving the nation’s economic development but also to ensuring national security.
That explains why many stakeholders argue that the Service can be radically enhanced through collaborative engagements and international partnerships.
The NCS is tasked with three core mandates, which are: robust revenue generation, suppressing smuggling and trade facilitation.
Going forward, they say, these core mandates can be optimally achieved through deliberate, revolutionary, collaborative engagements with stakeholders, home and abroad, besides leveraging the deployment of cutting-edge technology.
Some solicit stepping up the Service’s operations by drastically deepening its existing partnerships with local stakeholders and partners, such as security agencies, government agencies (MDAs), border communities, anti-corruption agencies and the media.
They are of the view that prioritising domestic collaborations and deepening partnerships with international organisations using cutting-edge technologies are critical transformative initiatives that would enhance effectiveness and overall service delivery of the NCS.
Adewale Adeniyi, Ag. Comptroller-General of Customs (CGC), on assumption of office, captured this in his inaugural speech, titled: ‘Embracing a New Era of Excellence’.
He declared a new era of collaborative engagements and technology-driven customs service.
According to Adeniyi, the service under him will strengthen existing local and international collaborative engagements and partnerships.
Photo: Adewale Adeniyi, Ag. Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service.
This, he intends to achieve by engaging with stakeholders, who will be treated as partners, and adopting technology to streamline processes and revolutionise revenue generation.
“As we embark on this new journey, we recognise the need for collaborations and partnerships.
“We value the relationships we have built with our partner government agencies and the private sector. These collaborations have been vital to our adoption of technology as a tool to streamline processes and enhance revenue generation.
“We will strengthen these partnerships and engage with stakeholders through revitalized platforms.
“By promoting dialogue, we can resolve disputes and advance mutually beneficial solutions that lead to more efficient and effective service’’, he said.
According to him, NCS will continue to treat its esteemed stakeholders as partners, who have a stake in their success.
“It is crucial for us to recognize the modern realities and challenges to Customs operations. 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”, he said.
Adeniyi said NCS will adapt to changing landscapes, leverage emerging technologies, intelligence-led operations, and effective risk management strategies.
He added that collaboration with international partners, local law enforcement agencies and other countries’ customs administrations are critical to combating illicit trade and securing Nigeria’s national interests.
Corroborating Adeniyi’s commitment and determination to change the narrative at the Customs, Abdullahi Maiwada, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, and NCS spokesman, says Adeniyi is imbued with the requisite pedigree to change the Service.
Maiwada assured that under Adeniyi’s leadership, NCS will be on an “exciting journey” towards enhanced efficiency and unlocked potential.
“Through international collaborations, engagements with the World Customs Organization (WCO), exploration of AI-driven solutions, and strategic discussions, the NCS is pioneering innovative projects that will shape the future of Customs practice in Nigeria.
“The Acting CG has engaged in topical discussions within the global Customs community, advocating for the exploration of AI-driven solutions, including Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions like ChatGPT and advanced geo-spatial intelligence approaches such as GEOINT.
“The NCS has already established a GEOINT unit, leveraging geospatial data, mapping techniques, and satellite imagery to gain valuable insights for customs operations’’, he said.
Maiwada said Adeniyi’s engagements with strategic partners are already getting support for the establishment of a Customs Laboratory, which is a significant milestone in enhancing Customs operations and trade facilitation.
Some of the partners are World Customs Organization, WCO, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Japan Customs Administration (JCA),World Trade Organization (WTO), UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Bank, and IMF
“Amid the current landscape of evolving global trade dynamics, the NCS laboratory will provide comprehensive solutions to address challenges, such as counterfeit goods, smuggling, and non-compliant imports, thereby bolstering revenue generation and ensuring the protection of public health and safety.
“With its advanced analytical capabilities, the laboratory is expected to deliver precise identification, verification and classification of goods.
“This would enable efficient enforcement measures and informed decision-making towards achieving seamless customs operations, trade competitiveness and national economic growth in line with the vision of the President Bola Tinubu-led administration,” he said.
Joshua Eze, a stakeholder, for instance, recalls that prior to his elevation, Adeniyi won the exemplary CGC Award for his unprecedented seizing of $8,065,612 million cash at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, in January 2020.
According to him, the new dispensation entails striking a delicate balance between trade facilitation and revenue collection.
He said it offers an opportunity to redefine priorities through collaborative engagements and cutting-edge technology to steer the organization towards the path of efficiency, transparency, and modernisation.
“The new Nigeria Customs Service envisioned by the new helmsman needs collaboration and stakeholder engagement.
“Therefore, the new Comptroller-General must actively engage and collaborate with other government agencies, the private sector, international organisations, and regional trade bodies.
“It is expected that CGC Adeniyi will recognise the need to re-balance the priorities of the NCS, placing emphasis on trade facilitation alongside revenue generation.
“He should focus on optimising Customs processes, embracing technology, and streamlining procedures to facilitate legitimate trade flows, while revenue collection remains crucial,” he said.
Leonard Ogamba, President of Shippers’ Association, Lagos, blamed wrong policies over the years for trade facilitation challenges in the country.
He therefore argued that the success of NCS under Adeniyi would depend largely on whether or not the new Customs boss would do things differently.
He urged the new Customs boss and the entire NCS management to collaborate with domestic and international partners, and operate within the confines of domesticated international conventions.
Frank Ogunojemite, President, Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics in Nigeria, (APFFLON), describes Adeniyi’s appointment as a “rebirth” of the NCS.
He identified modernisation as key to achieving trade facilitation, and agrees with other observers on the need for constructive engagements and collaborations with local and international partners towards attaining a robust Customs Service.
“The modernisation of Customs is very important as this is one of the several factors that will increase trade facilitation, and until we get those things right, we will still not be able to take our place in the comity of maritime nations,” he said.
Ogunojemite also advised that NCS under Adeniyi should engage domestic and foreign stakeholders, such as customs brokers and stakeholders, professional bodies and leaders of thought in the Service’s operations.
Similarly, collaborations and engagements with stakeholders by the NCS under the new dispensation is mandatory for it to attain optimal operational success.
This is the position canvassed by Dr Kayode Farinto, Acting President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs (ANLCA.
He said that Adeniyi, being a career officer, must ensure that he is always accessible and regularly engages critical stakeholders in line with the WCO 2013 Handbook.
The document mandates every Customs formation to collaborate with Customs brokers and stakeholders.
Yusuf Malanta, a former Comptroller, Apapa Area Command, NCS, explains that collaboration with other MDAs plays a great role in the high revenue haul.
He, therefore, underscores the role of interagency collaboration in boosting revenue generation, particularly against the backdrop of an unprecedented revenue generation of over N1 trillion by the Command under him in 2022.
Interestingly, the CGC is getting positive feedback from leading stakeholders.
The Accountant General of the Federation, Dr Oluwatoyin Madein, expressed her readiness to collaborate with NCS to increase revenue generation, when the CGC visited her recently.
Madein pledged to collaborate with the NCS and other federal government revenue generating MDAs, by establishing a robust working relationship with them.
The new Customs boss also recognises the place of border communities in the efficiency of the Service.
“One fair commitment I will like to give to you is that we will do better in recruitment from people in border communities because we believe that they are stakeholders.
“Customs-border community relationship is stronger when you know that you have your sons and daughters in the NCS.
“We are also not unmindful that where we have this kind of critical operations, we should also be talking about the kind of corporate social responsibility programmes that we are going to be doing,” Adeniyi said during a visit to border communities.
In line with its commitment to collaborative engagements to enhance its operations for effective service delivery, the NCS has also identified the media as an indispensable partner in progress by seeking collaboration with the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ.
The CGC, who made the pledge at a recent award ceremony of the NUJ in Lagos, explained that such a partnership was necessary because the media informs and educates the public on Customs’ operations.
“The Service requires the support and guidance of the media to consolidate the progress made in trade facilitation and revenue collection aspects of its mandate.
“Smuggling activities, for instance, can be curtailed to a large extent through partnership with the media,” he said.
As Adeniyi marks his first 100 days in office, stakeholders are of the view that NCS should scale up its local inter-agency collaborative engagements and international partnerships leveraging technologies to achieve its core mandates. (NANFeatures)
Source: News Agency of Nigeria