ON assumption of duty as the Federal Capital Territory Command of the Nigeria Customs Service in Abuja, the Commandâ€™s Comptroller Alhaji Usman Kankara Bello told Godwin Oritse in this interview that he has turned the face of revenue collection around at Command as first quarter collection shows a remarkable difference from last yearâ€™s collection.
Below are excerpts
You have been here for fourÂ months now (Interrupt) No I have been here for three months, I was redeployed in January and I took over from Comptroller Abbe who is now in the Kaduna Area Command, I came here from Kano/Jigawa AreaÂ Command
On your arrival in this Command what were the major challenges you met on ground?
When I got to FCT Command, the challenges IÂ met on ground was in the area of revenue collection and generation. When I got here I also observed that importers were not following due process.
In airports across the country, we have consignments whose documents get to us before the goods arrive and at this stage we do what we called pre-release pending when the entire documentation process will be perfected.
We are aware that they goods came in and are ungently needed for whatever purpose and because as Nigerians we see a merit of case importers without complete documents can clear their goods
We also take into the kind of bureaucracy in getting a Risk Assessment Report and getting confirmation of bankâ€™s payment takes tome. We tell importers to pay duty on what can be immediately assessed and in there is any additional balance to be paid we ask them to come and pay.
I however discovered that after getting their consignment, they never come back to perfect their documents, only a few of them come back. So when I resumed duty here I did a compilation of those who came to perfect their papers and those that did not, it was through this simple process that we used to block revenue leakage.
Imagine that January last year only N13million was realized as revenue, this is a far cry from the N297million collected in January 2010.
These are the efforts we have taken to first and foremost boost revenue of the Command and secondly block revenue leakages and lastly to meet and surpass our revenue target.
Talking about target, what is your revenue target for the year?
The Customs management gave us a target of N5billion for year 2010 and that translate to N450million every month. And we are doing out best to ensure that we meet this target every month.
So far we have collected over N1billion for the first quarter of the year, I believe we are moving in the right direction, we are making progress and I am sure that we will meet our target before the end of the year.
Beyond the revenue leakages and importers not following due process what other problems did you encounter when you arrived at this Command?
We also had this problem of ASYCUDA , when I came here, I am you know we are under ASYCUDA plus plus.
The Mast on which we mounted our own mast belonged to Shell.
(Interruption) You mean Shell the Oil Company?
Yes, they had some operation here in Abuja and they had this gigantic mast at the Airport on which we hung our mast
After a short while Shell wrote us to say that we moving their mast from its location as they were through with the project they were working on and this again threw up another challenge for us because once that mast is removed, all our systems will be shut down meaning that this Command will clear any consignment.
You also need to understand that Abuja is a very sensitive Command in the sense all cargoes brought in by Embassies in Abuja come in through this Command.
It will interest you to know that 80% of cargoes that come through Command belong to the Embassies .
If we do not release cargoes in just one day the government will be embarrassed and most the these cargoes are perishables.
What are going to say if the U S or British Embassies in Nigeria write to say that they cannot take delivery of their cargoes from the Airport, the embarrassment will be too much.
So I quickly wrote a letter to the Managing Director of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) Mr Bature to request for piece of land at the Cargo Warehouse besides the airport so that we can erect our mast.
After which we begged Shell to give us one week to enable us erect our own mast.
Luckily for us the FAAN Managing Director approved our application after which we also met with the authorities of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) who also quickly gave us his own approval and within a few a days our engineers erected the mast.
What are your plans, your vision for this Command?
My vision for the Command is to first of all make it very user friendly, to enable, for importers and agents to take advantage of the airport to clear within the shortest possible time because we clear on line and I can also grant you conditional release on merit.
Then on the issue of welfare, we sincerely thank the Customs management particularly the Comptroller-General of CustomsÂ for giving us barracks to accommodate our officers.You know this Command is very far from town, the accommodation provided by management has come very handy.