Ali Moves For Full Automation Of Customs Operations

By Stephen Ubana

Officials of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, and the United States based Information Communication Company, Oracle Corporation have begun talks over the use of its Information Communication technology, ICT, to entrench its fully e- Customs operation.

Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, NCS, broke the cheery news to officers and men of the Service at the just concluded World Customs Organisation, WCO Day, Celebration held at  the Customs Training College Gwagwalada, Abuja.

Ali  disclosed that the technology if put into use  by the Service” will go a long way  to ”bring about  safe trade” as it has the ”track and trace tool for cargo tracking”. As a prelude to the introduction of the new technology , he confirmed that Customs personnel were being trained  under-going and reorientation .

Moreso, he said  a Regional  security strategy, composed of Nigeria, Chad, Cameroun and Republic of Benin had been put in place called Securite Par Collaboration , SPC++ had been introduced for proper border management.

Kemi Adeosum: Minister of Finance andA Customs Awardee

The planned introduction of the cargo trace and track tool technology of Oracle Corporation by the NCS may not be a cheery news to agents and their Customs collaborators who fly Containers at the seaports. or  fake auction documents allegedly signed by the Comptroller General  to take delivery of Containers at the seaport. One of such Containers was said to have fallen into the waiting hand of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, Roving team headed b Jack Okpabi, a Chief Superintendent of Customs.

The introduction of the Customs police  as part of the on-going reform of the Service by Ali is a bad news for officers.  The Customs police, the Comptroller General said would serve as an internal mechanism  to check and ensure discipline  among its personnel. Given an insider information , he said the  Customs personnel  were trained at  Nigeria Military School, Zaria, Kaduna state, , noting that securing the borders  is one of the challenges facing the Service.

Described as  a ”no nonsense man” by other global Customs Administrators as at the WCO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium, Ali was said to have  told the officers at the WCO Day that it  had adopted the WCO  ICT tools and instruments which ”offers opportunities  to create a secured business environment and transparent processes that will  boost economic development’, the theme for this year’s Celebration.

This is evident with the easing of the clearing process at the seaports, airports and land border stations through the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report, PAAR, fast facility for reputable traders, Post Audit Clearance aimed at reducing  clearance time and Cost of  clearing.

Coming on the heels of  the WCO Day celebration was the giving of awards to individuals , officers both serving and retired and Organisations. indeed, it was the moment which the officers and men  of the Service who were well seated at the auditorium had waited for. The roll call of the individuals honored by tAli led Customs were Kemi Adeosun , minister of Finance, George Unafuwanka, Aliko Dangote, President, Dangote Group of Company,  Joseph Attah, a Deputy Comptroller and the Service Image maker . Attah was said to have got the award as a crisis manager.

Others were Wale Adeniyi, Comptroller and Deputy Commandant, Customs Training College, Gwagwalada,  Deputy Comptroller General  Aliu Dangaladima and Deputy Comptroller General Alao rtd. among others.

The Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA,  British America  Tobacco Company Nigeria plc,  BAT, Bolore African logistics ltd,  and A.A. Logistics were equally honored on the WCO day .Also on the Customs  award list were theNigeria Army, for their role in the security of the nation,  fighting Boko Haram in the north east and the Navy for their support to  the service in its anti-smuggling war  in the country’s waters.

Perhaps, the two awards that drew the highest applause of the day were that of Yusuf Barsha, former Comptroller, Tin-can Island Command, now deployed to the Customs Headquarters and  Jack Okpabi,a Chief Superintendent of Customs described as ”a rugged and dogged” anti-smuggling officer from FOU, Zone A, Ikeja. Barsha, going by the citation on him got the award over his Customised seizures   at Tin-can Island port.Given his expertise on the WCO technology and  cargo tool tracking instruments, Barsha was said to have  tracked arms cargo import into the country  through Tin-can Island port.

The Magazine was informed that he had followed the  ship carrying the first Container loaded with the  offensive cargo  from the mid-sea until it was it was finally discharged at the port in the month of May, 2017.  To ensure that the officers do the right thing,  insiders said he monitored the ”20” Container where the arms were Concealed  from his office until it was examined in the presence of other security agencies  personnel at the port including Department of State Security personnel, DSS.

The discovery of the arms in the ”20” Container load of cargo  imported from Turkey and the information available to him that two other ”20”  Containers loaded with  arms from the same country were still on the  high sea heading to Nigeria through his port may have  forced him to be on the red alert.

A  source at the port  confirmed that he was on the internet daily within the period, monitoring the movement of the   vessels carrying the two other ”20” Containers loaded with arms.   It paid off as the  ”20” Containers Concealed with arms were discovered in subsequent months.

It is on record that Barsha ,  made  a total   of 2,671 arms seizure at the port between May and August 2017. It is also on record  that he created a record in terms of revenue collection and Containers seizure in the Command. This had been acknowledged by some senior officers from the Command who had retired from the Service, including a past Comptroller .

many believe that without the likes of Barsha being at Tincan Island at the time the arms were imported through, it may have developed wings. They cited the case of the Container loaded with steel doors with arms Concealed in it released from Apapa port but intercepted by the FOU, Zone A, Roving team  headed by Adamu Mohammed, then an Assistant Comptroller and now a Deputy Comptroller.   It is not surprising why Ali, the Comptroller General said   the new NCS, ” now were more responsive  and capable of  meeting the challenges posed by these criminals”’.

Barsha, who could not hide his feelings told the Magazine ”I left  the Tincan Island port better than I met it”. He confirmed  that  business  transactions at the port has improved significantly going by the monthly revenue collection of the Command which run into billions of naira.

An elated Barsha  disclosed that he tackled the mess at the port with the support of the officers who queued into his  action plan for the Command to turn things around at the port.  The good work of the  former Comptroller  at the port may have forced most of the senior officers at the port who enjoyed working under him as a disciplinary officer to leave their duty post to Abuja to Cheer their  former  Comptroller  for his Customs award  over his Customised seizure.

Indeed, when Okpabi, ”popular” Jack, Head of the FOU, Zone A, Roving team mounted the rostrum to collect his award ,  Ali looked at the officer who had being making the spectacular interceptions of Containers at the seaports and assorted vehicles smuggled into the country through unapproved routes at  the land border  Communities without a gun shot .

He was said to have put fears on the rich who drive expensive vehicles worth millions of naira smuggled into the  country without payment of duty or taken delivery at the port without payment of the appropriate duty.  One of the”’ big  boys” had offered to give him $20,000 to influence him from taking  away  his prized car from his house. The man was said to have invited his DSS friends to be witness to him as he give out the money to Jack  and his money. He got it wrong. Jack was said to have ordered that he should be hand-cuffed and dragged to the Command for the insult.

The Magazine learnt that it took the intervention of the DSS to get the handcuff removed from his hand. The support from Mohammed Uba Garba, the Comptroller  of the Command, described in Customs circles as a strtegists may have forced him and members of the team to turn their back on kick-backs but to double their effort in the Service anti-smuggling war. Analysts believe that it had  paid- off for him and his team with the Customs award.

Insiders told the Magazine that Jack and his men may have experienced problems of transporting  Containerised  cargoes  from points of interception to the Customs warehouse , technical  and terrain   difficult,, crowd control and crisis management, On and Offloading of Containers  including  vehicles but were never  weakened.

Perhaps, what may have pushed his record  up the ladder against other  enforcement officers listed for  the award in  his category may be the  interception of 51 assorted vehicles hidden by a car dealer at a close at Omole Estate, Ikeja.

The Customs  drivers used for the evacuation of the vehicles from the uncompleted building by Jack followed his instructions to the later.

The Comptroller General who was invited  by Garba, the Comptroller of the Command to see the detained  assorted  vehicles intercepted by his boys which were parked at the Customs Training School, Ikeja. Ali, the Comptroller General, had confirmed  the impression of people about him that  though he has retired from the Army years  ago, he still looked strong with the away he jumped the Training School gutter without asking for Vehicle to take him out. At the last WCO Day,  It was to the fact that if ”one wants to know how strong the Comptroller General, he need to take a walk with him”.

Jack  had dedicated his award to Garba, the Comptroller ,for giving him the opportunity to head the Roving team of the Command  for the best in him in anti-smuggling war .  ”It is the team’s award”, he said.

Officers  and men of the Service  may have celebrated this year’s WCO with  happiness, going by the  promise of President Muhammadu Buhari to improve their welfare package this year.. Adeosun , the minister of Finance  and an an awardee, who was represented by the Director of Finance made disclosure.  The Director said the minister   is working round the clock to see to the approval of the new salary package and  other enhanced allowances for Customs personnel.

The President may have been encouraged   to  give Customs personnel an improved welfare package because of pressures from Ali, the omptroller General  that the Officers and men of the Service  needed to be placed at par with other revenue generating agencies like the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC and federal Inland Revenue Services, FIRS.

Adeosun, the Minister of Finance may have bought the idea with the payment of N1.037 tn  into the Federation account by the NCS  last year. The minister confirmed that revenue that was generated by the Service  had been shared by the three tiers of government – Federal, states and Local government.

The mention of the planned improved welfare package for the  officers and men of the Service, may emboldened Charles Edike, Commandant , Customs Training College, Gwagwalada, to plead with the Director of Finance , who represented the minister at the WCO Day  to facilitate the approval of the  Customs Enhanced Welfare Package and money quickly appropriated for it.. He danced and made rib cracking jokes to the admiration of the officers that Customs personnel would  soon be earning big salaries.

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