By Musa Omale
In life it is often stated that only change is constant. This behooves that for whatever happens in life, there is the beginning and end of it. This exactly is the situation in the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS). A peep into memory lane specifically May, 2015 reveals how the ‘change’ mantra of the ruling party, the All Progressive Party (APC), riding on the colourful crest waves of public acceptance and good will, brought to power the government of president Muhammad Buhari.This culminated in the appointment of the 30th Comptroller- General of the NCS, in the person of Col.Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd), CFR. The appointment was intended to put a total end to the ‘business as usual’ syndrome. This was anchored on his profile as a retired military officer and well known for his anti-corruption posture. His agenda which was chronicled in the 3R’s- Reform, Restructure and Raise revenue which was to be achieved via-
Fighting corruption, and restoring discipline through attitudinal reorientation for efficient and effective service delivery.
Achieving the core statutory functions of the NCS, of revenue collection, trade compliance and facilitation, anti-smuggling activities, National Security amongst others, based on the Service motto “Justice and Honesty”
Enhancing the welfare of officers and men for maximum Service delivery
Ensuring strict application of the Customs and Excise management Act (CEMA) CAP-C 45 laws of the Federation of Nigeria LFN 2004,Customs codes, extant laws and Federal Government’s circulars in all Customs operations.
Addressing all anomalies manifest in recruitment, training, posting and promotion of officers and men of the Service
Holding all Customs Area Controllers, Head of units and departments accountable for established infractions to do with false declaration, deliberate misapplication of the tariff, under valuation and concealment
Reviewing the extant procedure of disposal of seizures and overtime cargos to cure the current abuse
Over hauling and strengthening the legal and investigation units to meet the maximum demands of the emerging challenges
Upgrading the Customs training colleges in Lagos and Kano and the Academy in Abuja
Opening of the office of the Comptroller – General (CG) 24/7, to legitimate complaint from members of the public in the spirit of optimizing quality service delivery.
The agenda as stated, no doubt covered all the critical areas needed to be addressed for effective performance, thereby achieving the 3R’s. He was on the saddle of power at the NCS for about eight years (August 2015- June 19 2023), eight eventful years until the fateful day when it was announced in the media that he should retire from the mantle of leadership at the NCS. It was the same announcement that saw the exit of the nation’s Service Chiefs and the Inspector General of police.
The question is whether from the intent and purpose of Ali’s agenda, the desired results was achieved in all its ramifications. To be honest, the retired army colonel,, coming from a non-Customs background with limited knowledge of the Customs operations was able to learn fast and with the support of his assistants, was able to record some level of success in the areas of salary increase, posting, promotion and infrastructural developments.
He also played a key role by giving his blessing to the review of the 2004 CEMA, which culminated in the passage of the NCS bill, 2022, into law and was equally assented to by the former president before he left office. The NCS Act, 2023 is currently awaiting official gazetting to commence its birth.
It could as well be said of Ali’s administration that ‘he came, saw but certainly did not conquer.’ And this owes largely to his non-Customs background, his strenuous strivings at optimum achievement notwithstanding.
It is against this background that the appointment of a professional Customs officer by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a welcome development as that will cure any convulsions and eruptions of the past years in the NCS.
Gains of the new appointment with the new appointment of an insider as the Acting Comptroller General, the expected gains cannot be overemphasized. The appointment was hailed by all and sundry, and it reminds me of the appointment of a former CG, of blessed memory, Dikko Inde Abdullahi, whose appointment was held to be timely. This was anchored on the yearnings and aspirations of the populace especially the officers and men of the NCS on the need to have a quality leadership that would move the Service forward. And subsequently, that period was referred to as a messianic era in the NCS. That era seems to be playing out in the appointment of Bashir Adewale Adeniyi as the 31st CG of the NCS. The service having been under the leadership of a non-career officer for eight years, and taken into consideration the historical antecedent of the NCS, his appointment breaking the gap of almost a decade of non-Customs leadership, reconnecting with the glorious professional years, we foresee more positive changes for the desired projections for a new “Customs Service”. The justification in this appointment is that being a career job, and also as provided in the NCS Act 2023, that only career officers within the Service can be appointed CG, is a proof to show that the experience of a professional Customs Officer is a hallmark to providing the necessary focus to attain the maximum potentials of the Service.
Another gain of the appointment is the fact that, it is now in line with other sister organizations like the police, Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Correctional Service and the Service Chiefs, wherein their heads have always been appointed from within, thereby improving professionalism and general work ethics. These gains no doubt may be the reason for the ovations and jubilations accompanying the appointment of Adeniyi, as the CG of Customs. This came from both officers and stake holders in the maritime industry. But who really is this new CG, whom the people believe will take the NCS to an enviable height.
Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, MFR
Bashir Adewale Adeniyi (MFR) was until his appointment the Deputy Comptroller General, in charge of the Strategic Research and Policy Department. In his over 30 years of Duty at the NCS,he spent well over 10 years as the mouth piece of the NCS and no doubt became the ‘czar’ of the Public Relations unit. He was undoubtedly a sterling mentor to all officers in the unit. His legacy in the unit is equal to none as he became the godfather of modern PR in the NCS. His stint of over a decade with this unit, and the experience acquired therein made him a Master in Customs Administration having unprecedented knowledge of the workings of the Service. His well-deserved progression in the Service deriving from his competence and the critical positions he has held, which obviously informed this momentous appointment are highlighted below:
National Public Relations Officer of the Service
Adviser and Chief strategist to former CGCs
Customs Area Controller of Murtala Mohammed International Airport Command
Deputy Commandant – Nigeria Customs Service Command and Staff College, Gwagwalada (pioneered the commencement of the Command and Staff Courses in 2017)
Commandant of the Nigeria Customs Command and Staff College Gwagwalada , Abuja
Head of the Strategic Research and Policy Department
These highlights together with several other accomplishments, skills, educational attainments, professional membership, Service decorations, professional courses, published papers and other academic works and attendance of high level meetings at the World Customs Organization (WCO) are intimidating feat justifying his appointment which from all indications will be an epochal era in the Service.
As an officer whom all through his career knows the workings of the WCO, becoming the CG at this critical moment and with that advantage will further bring that to bear, so as to project the NCS more at the WCO. Indeed, in buttressing this, the PRO of the Service, Abdulahi Maiwada in a press release, on June 25, 2023 captured it succinctly-“The appointment of Acting CG Adewale Adeniyi was announced on Monday, 19 June 2023, while he was attending the policy Commission and Council meeting of the world Customs Organization (WCO) in Brussels, Belgium.Leveraging this global platform, the Acting CG engaged in topical discussions within the global Customs Community, advocating for the exploration of AI- driven solutions, including Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions like Chat-GPT and advanced geo- spatial Intelligence approaches such as GEOINT. These technologies present immense potential for enhancing communication, decision-making process, and enforcement operations within Customs”…
This as described by the PRO is hitting the ground running by the CGC, and we submit that the action of Adeniyi to commence work immediately even when he had not returned, is a clear hint of how the new Customs will operate—with no room at all for lapses.
Suffice to mention that his membership of the Nigeria Customs Service Project team as the then PRO of the Service, was remarkable leading to the production of a blue print on Customs Reforms and Modernization in Nigeria, Towards a Comprehensive Vision by the Global South Group in 2012.
A summary on his professional acumen indicates, that within over 30 years’ experience in Customs Administration covering strategic and operational responsibilities, he possesses deep understanding of the complex and constant evolving international trade landscape, and this becomes crucial to maintaining the highest standards of integrity and professionalism.
There is no doubt that the dynasty of the change mantra of 2015 especially as applicable to the NCS has come to an end. The announcement of Monday 19 June 2023, appointing a new Acting CGC marks the beginning of the end of the said mantra. It is a further proof of the fact that whatever has a beginning has an end.
That mantra may have recorded some gains but as postulated in this write up, the gains of this current appointment of a career officer will outweigh that of a non-career officer. The officers, public and the legal acceptance of the new appointment is a pointer to another glorious era of the yester years in the NCS.
Compt. Musa Omale PhD is the Customs Area Controller of the Sokoto/Zamfara Command of the Nigeria Customs Service