By Udeme Clement
Comptroller Haruna Mamudu, has served Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) at various capacities. Aside from other top positions held in the Service, he was Customs Area Controller (CAC), Ogun State Command. When he took over the affairs of Ogun Command in December 2013, he introduced 24 hours border patrol with all officers on alert to prevent smuggling of arms and ammunition into the country through the border, especially during the election period of 2015.
His tenure in Idiroko not notwithstanding the volatile nature of the border yielded more revenue generation through Nigeria-Benin Republic import scheme. Currently, he is the CAC, Federal Operations Unit, Zone C, Owerri. He speaks on the activities of NCS in the last one year under Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) as the Comptroller General, and explained how NCS is working to help Nigeria’s economy recover from recession.
With declining oil price and economic recession, the Federal Government is looking at more revenue generation from NCS to boost the economy. How is the Service performing in terms of revenue collection to help the economy recover from recession?
To start with, we have increased revenue generation for government by blocking all loopholes to prevent leakages from our income. We are working tirelessly to enhance facilitation of legitimate trades to boost productive activities in the country. You are aware that at present, crude oil production is low, oil price at the international market is also declining and the volume of trade in the country generally has gone down, but notwithstanding these challenges, we are still doing our best to generate revenue for government. We have doubled our efforts in revenue drive. Though, we are not on target now due to these factors, but we are very close to target.
At present, we are not experiencing reckless smuggling like before. Under the current CG, incessant cases of confrontation between smugglers and Customs had been addressed. We have new operating mechanism in place that paves the way for trade promotion in line with global best practice. The current management has created a level playing ground for operational efficiency and we are working to get the required results needed by government. Now, rice importation through land borders is banned and we do not hesitate to seize smuggled rice, foreign poultry products, textile materials and other prohibited items. This evidently shows in our warehouses that are filled with seizures of different contraband items. Today, false declaration of goods attracts outright seizure without any forgiveness, because we view that as serious economic sabotage. All these are measures NCS is putting in place to boost income flow in the system to enable the economy recover fast from recession.
Can you tell us how the Service has performed in the last one year under the supervision of the current CG?
The reality is that Customs is now seen from the inside because we have a CG who came from outside into the Service to pilot the affairs of NCS. When he took over NCS, he visited all the border stations, seaports and Commands at the hinterland to see a clearer picture of our operations. He first met me in Ogun Command during one of such visits. So, he looks inward to see the conditions in which we operate and the challenges we face. He understands that we need infrastructure and good welfare for officers who risk their lives to track down smugglers sabotaging our economy and government’s effort to grow local industries.
When we cried out in the past, many people did not understand the situation we operated then and the difficulties we encountered in the discharge of our duties. But with the current CG, Nigerians have come to appreciate the Service much better that what obtained in the past. The current CG has greatly improved on the existing synergy between NCS and other security agencies in the country.
Can you give us a brief comparative analysis of the Service in the last one year under Ali and the previous government?
In fairness, the previous government did well by reforming the Service, putting new structures on ground to enhance efficiency in the system. With such reforms, the Service went through various modernisation processes and today other countries in the entire West African sub-region see NCS as a role model. For example, we moved our operations from analogue to digital and to e-transactions where a lot of activities are done online. Online transactions have greatly reduced the aspect of bottlenecks in cargo clearing procedures, thereby reducing the contact between clearing agents and officers. Now, the image of NCS has improved so much, even the former government did a lot on building a good image for the Service. Today, we are a force to reckon with in the society. Ali does not tolerate illegality of any form.
Infact, he is not approachable as far as illegality is concerned. Now, officers are judged on merit. Whatever officers get in terms of promotion, is strictly on merit, because there is no eye-service in Ali’s dictionary. Our contact with him is based on performance.
What is the difference now in terms of capacity building?
The former regime did very well in capacity building, as officers were trained within and outside the country on modern Customs operations. Today, the current management is building on regular training and retraining programmes for officers. We still attend meetings of World Customs Organisation (WCO). We are doing well in the area of Information Communication Technology (ICT) and we don’t require external services from other organisations, as we do everything ourselves.
How are you tackling the menace of hard drug smuggling at the hinterland?
We position our officers at strategic places to block infiltration of hard drugs from other parts of the country and parcels of such items concealed by smugglers into our Command attracts outright seizure, after which they are handed over to National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) for thorough investigation.