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CG Adewale Adeniyi’s Leadership At Customs: A Look Back After A Year

By Adewole Kehinde

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”Jack Welch

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu approved the confirmation of the appointment of Adewale Adeniyi (MFR) as Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service on 19 June 2023 and the appointment takes effect from 19 October 2023.

His appointment was timely because he has over 30 years of experience in Customs Administration covering Strategic and operational responsibilities.

He possesses a deep understanding of the complex and constantly evolving international trade landscape.

He has a strong command of customs regulations, laws, and procedures as well as the ability to navigate and adapt to changing policies and regulations. He has demonstrated excellent communication and leadership skills responsible for leading teams of customs officials, and working closely with stakeholders across a variety of industries.

In less than a year, the Comptroller General has led several innovative projects and handled challenging circumstances with extraordinary grace and insight, winning respect and recognition from relevant parties.

He made several infractions in his first 100 days of work, while strictly adhering to the policy templates, which laid the groundwork for the accomplishment of his goals.

Aligning Nigeria Customs Service operations with the Policy Advisory Document of the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu-led administration is one of these offences.

To promote trade and adhere to the World Customs Organization’s convention, he disbanded the Strike Force Teams that had been in place, which had been the several tiers of enforcement, and replaced them with the Federal Operations Unit (FOU). By doing this, the number of checkpoints was decreased from roughly five units each stretch to just two, which should make up the command or the FOU.

In fewer than a hundred days in office, the compulsive worker-general accomplished all of these goals in addition to many more.

With the introduction of the Advanced Ruling System, he made a significant advancement towards harmonising NCS operations with international best practices and the recommendations of the World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation Agreement (WTO TFA).

His attempts to reposition the Service and promote trade facilitation included the establishment of a steering committee on the implementation of the Authorised Economic Operators (AEO) for Compliant Traders, with a specific focus on switching from the current Fastrack 2.0 to the AEO concept.

The interactions he has with the global community, including WCO, JICA, and Japan Customs, including the establishment of the Customs Laboratory, the use of geospatial technology, and the execution of Time Release Studies (TRS), demonstrate his belief that information is essential for providing the best possible services.

Adewale Adeniyi (MFR) as Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service

The conclusion of two working engagements, each funded by both administrations, with the Republic of Benin’s Customs Administration to close the gaps that now allow smugglers to operate and revenue leak.

Creating a committee with the mandate to revitalise the service’s zonal structures and provide them with the power to do so.

The reorganisation of the management team will adhere to the notion of equal geopolitical representation by appointing individuals solely based on merit.

The start of Customs Basic and intermediary institutions’ incorporation into the Nigeria Customs Service’s administrative structure.

Reassigning Customs Area Controllers strategically while upholding the idea of fair geopolitical representation based on merit.

The Nigeria Customs Service has started to develop a Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy to support the government’s development agenda, build long-lasting and positive relationships with communities, improve staff engagement and productivity, and enhance the NCS’s reputation as a socially responsible organisation.

Assembling of remarks and feedback from the operational visits to Customs commands into an ideas bank.

Revitalising the National Trade Facilitation Committee’s operations by holding retreats and engagements to discuss future directions for trade facilitation in Nigeria.

Completing the necessary agreements with the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to minimise the registration of illegal vehicles and integrate vehicle registration systems.

Maintaining interactions with a variety of stakeholders, such as the commercial sector, non-governmental organisations, and government agencies, to name a few.

Officers’ arrears should be promptly cleared as a temporary measure to improve morale while further incentives are being considered.

Launch of the Work-Life Balance (WLB) programme, which aims to improve the welfare and well-being of officers

A notable 70.13% increase in average monthly revenue collection from NGN 202 billion to NGN 343 billion was achieved through enhanced revenue generation.

Registered 1,763 seizures in total, with a significant Duty Paid Value of 11.9 billion Naira. several illegal commodities, including weapons, ammunition, illegal drugs, inferior medications, and other goods that are illegal and dangerous for our citizens, have been successfully intercepted

To elevate Nigeria Customs’ profile internationally, Adeniyi went beyond the Service’s historical focus on generating income by facilitating trade, which in turn has resulted in increased revenue generation.

Beyond the accomplishments of his first 100 days in office, CG Adeniyi made other revolutionary changes to the Service. Among the leaps are interactions with pertinent parties both domestically and internationally.

He brought back the previously dormant CGC Annual Conference, where discussions on pressing concerns about trade facilitation and port efficiency took the stage, to gauge the mood and draw on the expertise of port community stakeholders and operators.

The final conference was held in December 2023, twelve years have passed since then.

The inaugural Reunion of Retired Customs Officers was one of the CG’s many accomplishments.

Implementing the Lagos-Continental Declaration is a result of the discussions held during the CGC meeting with interested parties.

Overall revenue of NGN 3,206,603,417,315.47, a notable 21.4% rise over the total revenue of NGN 2,641,616,673,501.83 in the previous year. Despite an 18.62% decrease in transactions at year-end for 2023, this accomplishment was nevertheless recorded.

A significant change in NCS income generation: 62.26% (NGN 2.02 trillion) was collected in the second half, while 37.74% (NGN 1.21 trillion) was collected in the first half. This distribution is different from the usual pattern; it is similar to the 48.91% and 51.09% distributions from the prior year.

NCS achieved a historic Conviction of 52 offenders of Customs Laws in 2023

For 2024, NCS launched the TRS, AEO Pilot and Advance Ruling, implementation of Customs Laboratory, Establishment of a Command and Control Center, Establishment of Nigeria Customs University

Increase in revenue collection in the first quarter (January to March) of 2024 compared to the same period of the previous year.

Recorded the highest monthly revenue collection of N 506,642,193,019.05 in March 2024.

Got presidential approval for a 90-day window for owners of uncustomed vehicles to facilitate the payment of appropriate duties on previously imported vehicles into the country. The exercise resulted in a collection of an additional revenue of N 2,350,249,319.00 for the Service.

Introduction of quarterly press briefing sessions to provide insights to stakeholders and members of the public on the activities and performance of the NCS

Supported the redistribution of palliative/food items – rice and grains to needy Nigerians.

The NCS launched an extensive Time Release Study (TRS) with significant participation of high-level delegates and relevant government agencies in the international trade chain.

NCS concluded the stakeholder engagement, marking a critical step towards achieving the Authorized Economic Operators (AEO) program, set to be launched later in the year. Participants in the AEO program stand to benefit from expedited customs clearance processes, reduced inspections, priority treatment, and enhanced predictability in customs procedures, ultimately enhancing their credibility and competitiveness in the global market. 7 beneficiaries, including importers, exporters, logistics companies, customs brokers, and Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) are involved in the pilot stage.

Obtained presidential approval to decongest the port area and improve Logistics around the port in line with the Nigeria Customs Act 2023.

New terminals were dedicated to the conduct of examinations and ascertaining the status of consignments. The exercise resulted in the decongestion of 1,705 overtime containers and 981 vehicles from the ports to free up space for fresh and expedient transactions. A total of N1,508,148,897 revenue was generated from the exercise.

In line with the presidential directive to enforce the 48-hour Clearance, NCS commenced 24-hour clearance at the port of Tincan Island in Lagos.

NCS also designated the Port of Lilypond command as the dedicated export Terminal in line with the Policy Advisory Document of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration.

This resulted in a significant surge in the facilitation of export goods through the ports from 317 Single Goods Declarations (SGDs) – transactions to 7,464 SGDs through the terminal absorbing 19.49% of the total 38,294 export transactions recorded in 2023. As of the first quarter of 2024, the Service had processed a total of 10,786 transactions with 3,162 (29.32%) of the transactions processed through the dedicated export terminal.

Under the desire of the President to Execute country-specific strategies for accessing each of the top 10 target markets, NCS signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Customs Administration in May 2024 at the margins of the Global AEO Conference to further strengthen the resolve to facilitate trade for compliant traders.

With the support of the Federal Ministry of Finance, NCS initiated interactions with the Central Bank of Nigeria to achieve a stable exchange rate for the clearance of imported goods.

Between 2020 and 2024, the NCS was evaluated under PEBEC compliance and efficiency ratings. The EO1 Efficiency scale, which assesses service delivery based on adherence to service level agreements, costs and procedures, One Government directive, and Default Approval, saw NCS score an average of 18.45% from 2020 to 2022, ranking 28th out of 37 MDAs. In the first half of 2023, NCS scored 45.92% in transparency, ranking 41st out of 53. Combining efficiency (70%) and transparency (30%) scores, NCS achieved an overall performance score of 13.78%.

However, with the current validation, NCS has significantly improved, achieving an overall performance score of 90.4% and optimistic that the rating will rise above 95%. NCS is now ranked 6th.

Between June 2023 and May 2024, NCS intercepted a total of 2,938,390 litres of PMS from smugglers. The alarming observation in the diversion and smuggling of petroleum products and the implication on National Security led to the recent launch of Operation Whirlwind on 31st May 2024. The operation recorded an interception of 150,950 litres of fuel Within 7 days of operation, while simultaneous interceptions of 129,185 litres of fuel were carried out by other commands and structures nationwide.

NCS also recorded a combined seizure of N 4.1 billion Naira worth of illicit drugs comprising Cannabis Indica and Codeine in Tincan Island Port Command.

Towards fostering a vibrant economy for the country, the Service in March 2024, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Joint Tax Board at the NCS headquarters in Abuja.

It aims at laying a foundation for future endeavours and integrates fiscal policies to enhance data facilitation.

For enhanced trade facilitation in the African Continent, the CG expressed readiness to partner with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat.

Lamenting the low trade volume in Africa, CGC Adeniyi said the NCS fully understood the importance of balancing trade facilitation and revenue while pointing out that Africa’s share in global trade is around 3–4 per cent.

He expressed concerns about how the African trade system refuses to grow beyond 14–15 per cent, estimated over the last three to four years.

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China (GACC) to foster a bilateral relationship for the enhancement of Nigeria’s economic growth.

On Wednesday, 8 May 2024, Comptroller-General of Customs (CGC) Adewale Adeniyi led some of his management team to Shenzhen, where he highlighted the significance of knotting bilateral affiliation with China, which, according to him, will boost the two countries’ import-export operations and favour the businesses of MSMEs in Nigeria.

Capacity building

In a related development, a training program on Trends and Digital Solutions for Customs officials and the Trade Modernization Project (TMP) team was organised by Huawei on Thursday, May 9, 2024, which focused on equipping officials with the necessary skills to navigate the digital landscape of modern trade.

As the Comptroller-General of Customs championed the laying of a foundation for Advance Ruling to enhance trade in Nigeria, he revealed that the Service has made all arrangements to conduct workshops and sensitization sessions at Customs Area Commands to ensure that all stakeholders are well-informed and prepared to utilise the new mechanism effectively.

He, however, applauded the German International Cooperation Agency (GIZ) and other partners for their unwavering partnership and continued support of achieving a significant milestone in trade facilitation activities under the Nigeria Energy Support Programme.

“It is essential to acknowledge that initiatives like Advanced Ruling necessitate investments in capacity building for both officers and stakeholders. We are committed to leveraging our internal capacity while exploring collaboration opportunities with external partners like GIZ.” He said.

Upon reflection of Customs CG’s first year, it is clear that the emphasis on collaboration, consolidation, and creative solutions has produced outstanding outcomes.

In addition to streamlining procedures, the synergy produced by teamwork has helped the Service cultivate an effective and efficient culture.

In addition to addressing current issues, the creative solutions put in place have cleared the path for further expansion and advancement.

It is recommended that the NCS expand upon this basis going ahead, adopting fresh concepts and cooperating to attain even greater success in the years to come.

 

Adewole Kehinde is the publisher of Swift Reporters and can be reached at 08166240846, email: kennyadewole@gmail.com 

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