By Stephen Ubanna
Barely one week after the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, team, led by Aminu Dahiru, an Assistant Comptroller General, ACG, in-charge of Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Zone A, Lagos, which went to Shenzhi Cust port, Peoples Republic of China, to interact with their Customs Counterparts about their operations and how they are able to process documents that could lead to the shipment of over 80, 000 Containers of Industrialised goods going to different parts of the world daily returned to the country, Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and the Customs Comptroller General, appears prepared to be take the Service to another level.
This time, Ali was said to have thrown the door open for officers to get involved in the social media platform. The Comptroller General may have been convinced about the changes that have been brought about into the Shenzhi Customs operations in China that could speed up officers work in attending to exporters to facilitate the shipment of their cargoes from the port without hitch based on the brief from the team leader that he felt the need to revolutionise Customs operations for officers to join Customs Administrations in other parts of the world in the use of the social media platform for their work.
As a prelude to embarking on the Social Media Sensitisation Campaigns for officers, across Customs Formations nation-wide, Ali was said to have detailed , Aminu Dangaladima, a Deputy Comptroller General, Enforcement, Inspection and Investigation, E,I&I to take up the challenge.
The Magazine learnt that the Customs Comptroller General was finally encouraged to key into the social media platform to ease Customs operations in this digital age based on an alleged proposal that was said to have been forwarded to him by the Defense Headquarters, as part of the synergy between the Army and the Customs. The Defense Headquarters was said to have promised to provide the resource person, a Colonel, who is an expert in Cyber Crime and Security and who has been doing the training for the military over the years to handle the programme for the Customs. It could not be ascertained the cost of the project but an insider disclosed that it runs into millions of naira.
The Customs DCG according to an insider, has been traveling to the Commands over the last three weeks to sensitise the officers about the programme and the need to pay attention to it. He was said to have enjoined thee Comptrollers to ensure that proper arrangement were made to receive the resource person.
Last Tuesday, September 25, 2018, the DCG, was said to have been at Apapa Command where he met with Comptroller Barshar Mohammed and his Management team including Abdullahi Kirawa, a Deputy Comptroller and National Coordinator, Customs Strike Force, as part of efforts in creating awareness about the launching of the social media platform in the service.
On Friday, September 28, 2018, the Dangaladima team was said to have been at Seme, a joint border post between Nigeria and Republic of Benin to launch the programme amidst cheers from the officers. Muhammed Uba Garba, Comptroller ,Seme Command, who was said to be on the Shnzhi, China trip, was said to have been fully prepared to receive him and his entourage at the Command. The officers were eager to see the Army Colonel, regarded in security circles as an expert on Cyber Crime and Security matters . They were enthusiastic to listen to his lectures on the use of the social media platform and get more exposure. A source told the Magazine that prior to the arrival of the Abuja Customs Headquarters team, officers and men of the Command were well seated at the Conference room on the orders of Muhammed, the Customs Comptroller with the High table well laid.
It was learnt that Adamu Aliyu Mohammed, a former Comptroller of Seme Command and now Comptroller, Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, Lagos, was said to have identified with the programme as he left his Ikeja base on Thursday, September 27, 2018, to Seme, on the invitation of the Seme Customs Comptroller . He was said to have left a day in advance because of the traffic situation along the Lagos Seme Express way.
The Customs Comptroller, regarded in Customs circles as Comptroller of Comptrollers, because of the number of areas under his close watch in the south west, did not want to disappoint his counterpart at Seme because of their close relationship and who had pleaded with him to be there because of the new things that could be learned about the social media.
Many believe that even without the Seme Customs boss invitation to him to be at the venue of the launching of the social media sensitistion Campaigns at the Command , he has no option but to be there because of the presence of Dangaladima, a Headquarters Staff and leader of the team as well as his immediate boss . Officers were said to have given him a rousing ovation when they sited him, an indication that he had a robust working relationship with them and other security agencies operative including the agents and the Beninioa Customs personnel at the Land border when he was at the helms of affairs at the Command.
Officers who witnessed the flag off of the Social Media Sensitisation Campaigns at the Command and listened to the lectures of the Army Colonel on Cyber Crime and Security matters using the social media platform beamed with smiles when they came out from the hall. The Army Colonel may have exposed so much to the officers about the use of the social media platform to track smugglers and other Criminals at the land border.
They commended the Customs Comptroller General for liberalising the use of the social media platform in the Service, believed would considerably do away with paper work in the service as messages would be sent faster to officers without hitch. They urged other Chief Executives of other government agencies to take a cue from Ali , the Customs boss, to allow their Staff use the social media platform to complement their work instead of placing an embargo on it.
There is no gain saying the fact that the social media were accessible all over the world and each day millions of people were said to be on the Facebook, Twittter, Linkedin , Whatsapp and other social media platforms.
Social media experts believe that it plays some vital role in the lives of workers if given the opportunity to use it in the workplace. A study said to have been carried out by the Pew Research centre in the United States, shows that the ”social media plays major role in the lives of American workers”. As Pew noted in the survey , some of these influences on the lives of people, are explicitly professional job -related and personal in nature.
A Computer expert who spoke to the Magazine disclosed that the use of the social media platform could help the employees take mental break from their job while at work , make or support professional connections, get information that helps them solve problems at work and build as well as strengthen personal relationships with fellow workers. This is in addition of going to learn about the people they work with and to ask work-related questions of other people outside their Organisation.
But a senior Customs officer fears that by giving the go ahead order to officers to key into the social media network, Ali has given the officers and men of the Service, a bank cheque to interact and know more about what is happening in Customs including things they were not supposed to know. The officer fears that there would be much confusion in the system as some officers would use it to witch hunt their fellow officers seen as a threat to their position. This is where the senior officers had to be careful in taking action on messages unloaded into their phone daily from fellow officers.
Perhaps, one officer who may have found the importance of the social media platform to do their work before the sensitisation Campaigns for officers started nation-wide was Atta, the Customs Spokesman. He was said to have gradually done away with paper works in his press releases as he could send out hundreds of messages to Journalists at a go. Uche Ejesieme, a Deputy Superintendent of Customs and Atta Jerome , an Assistant Superintendent of Customs both Customs Image makers at Tincan Island Command and FOU, Zone A, respectively, appear to have keyed into the social media platform to relate with Journalists covering the maritime beat and their Colleagues in the office with ease over the years.
Take , for instance, when the Command is expected to hold its monthly parade, the Magazine learnt that Attah, the Command Image maker usually sends out the message to the officers through the social media platform and it gets to them without delay. It is not surprising why officers who may not have been coming to the office to know what is happening see the monthly parade as an opportunity to do to hear from Mohammed, the Comptroller about the policy direction of the Service from the Headquarters.The Magazine gathered that no Customs Comptroller takes it with levity any officer who declines to turn up for the monthly parade without any cogent reason which must be made known to him in advance in writing.
With the approval of the use of the social media in Customs operations the Customs Comptroller General may have opened a new channel of Communication with officers and other security operatives at the land border and other Customs Formations nation-wide. It is also an opportunity for Muhammed, the Command Area Comptroller to have closer working relationship with the officers and other security operatives at the land border including the Department of State Security Service, DSS, personnel to be able to deal with smugglers decisively in their hideouts and other fraudulent agents and their Customs Collaborators.
The major problem of Seme Command , over the years , had been under payment on imported goods. Past Comptrollers of the Command had made effort to stop it but no luck because it was not easy to break into the syndicate. Muhammed may have given an answer to the problem as he could use the social media platform to checkmate the officers and agents at the land border through regular contacts. The Command may have to take a cue about the importance of the social media platform operations to to what happened at FOU, ZOne A , recently, where the Comptroller was alerted about the fraud that was about to be committed at the Warehouse by some officers over the burial of some seized cartons of poultry products. It is obvious that without the social media platform , the Comptroller may not have known about the deal.