Ag. Customs CG, Adeniyi Inherited A Distorted System But We’re 100 Per cent Sure He Will Succeed With His Hands On Style – Sir Elochukwu
Says Stakeholders are United in support of Adeniyi’s appointment as AG. CGC
By Jerry Aguigbo
Chief (Sir) Ernest Elochukwu Managing Director / Chief Executive Officer of Nestello Gateways Group, has said that the Acting Comptroller General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi inherited a distorted system from his predecessor, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd.)but will need time to fix things and get it right. As he says, the stakeholders are backing him full time and are 100 per cent sure he will succeed.
Speaking in a Telephone interview with our Correspondent recently, Elochukwu said Maritime Stakeholders have high regards for the Ag. Customs CG, Adewale Adeniyi, according to him, there’s no doubting his mettle, he said the AG. CGC has got what it takes to succeed.
“We all, with no exception, have high regards for the present occupant of that position of the Comptroller General of Customs (CGC), Mr. Bashir Wale Adeniyi. We have maximum respect for him, because the joy which we presently express about his appointment is real. His appointment is one of those where stakeholders are unanimous in saying that the Government got it right because the agony of the last eight years with the soldier man is something that we don’t want to relive. To the extent that simplest problem that used to be solved at the Customs Headquarters, if you have it and you go there, that means you don’t want that problem solved ever. I think Col Hameed Ali (rtd) came on board with the mind set of a saint coming to sanitize the system being run by a gang of robbers but it was a completely wrong notion. But then we all know that no body is a saint, even him.
Buttressing that line of argument, Elochukwu says,
“We heard many stories of sleaze and all those sorts. Above all, his refusal to step down immediately PMB left somehow portrayed him as someone who had intention to cling to the office for as long as possible. However,we agreed that it wasn’t a good thing that a retired soldier, would come in to run the customs Service.
Also giving his opinion on how well the Acting CGC has started, hitting the ground running and consulting widely to leave no room for gaffs.
Elochukwu says Adeniyi style has always been hands-on.
“Honestly, may be because he has always being my friend, you know he was the Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Customs Service when I was the National President of ANLCA, and he was such a wonderful person to interface with. And he is somebody who believes in problem solving, rather than running around. He is hands-on on the job.
Just as I said of ANLCA, he too inherited a system that has seen some
destruction and distortions. These would take some time in refixing. Take the issue of decision making at the Headquarters for instance. Would you believe that at a point during the past administration, senior officers became reluctant in giving their honest recommendations on issues as they ran the risk of being misprofiled. Officers were cajoled into taking actions that didn’t edify them as senior officers hence, many never dared visiting their former places of work after disengagement. Those who risked it had tales of woes as they were given insults to last them their remaining lifetime. Of course, the same thing rubs off on us. Imagine someone like me being walked out of an office by a junior officer even when he was told that I was a former President of ANLCA. So the issue of morale and perception of what the Service stands for is very crucial.”
Continuing, he said,
“the CGC, Wale Adeniyi, is a thorough bred officer, he will look at all these things, and come up with something including even the modus operandi. At a particular point in time it looked like all that the service was interested in was revenue maximization. In fact, the indicator of a performing Area command is still hinged on how much it has overshot the target that it was given. People like us, from the vantage point from where we are, said it is like the proverbial killing of the goose that lays the golden eggs. It will get to a point in the business community where there would be no business again. I believe that in as much as we are operating within the confines of the World Customs Organization (WCO), we should be able to tailor some of our local practices to conform with the provisions. If we want to be sincere, we will understand that the Customs are under a pressure they shouldn’t be under. We went for one occasion at the National Assembly and all that the National Assembly members were interested in is how to make Customs collect more money. Of course I don’t, expect Customs officers as civil servants to do otherwise. they cannot tell the National Assembly members that it cannot work that way. But it will appear that all they are interested in is for Customs to collect as much as they can. They put the Customs under pressure. I know that Wale passed through the tutelage of certain notable Comptrollers General.Being in the vantage position he was as PRO, he knew how they handled certain problems that came. And I am having more than hundred percent confidence that he will deliver on his mandate. I am that confident,” he enthused.
Sir Ernest Elochukwu also stated that setting high target for NCS, impacts negatively on trade facilitation and compliance, even as it is considered an aberration by WCO and FIATA.
“I will tell you a story. Sometime ago, I can’t remember the exact time now, we went for a FIATA function in America. And the then registrar of CRFFN was reeling out the contributions of freight forwarders as we were called by the CRFFN Act .He mentioned one of such contributions as helping the Customs meet their target. At which point, one of the program facilitators said, “Can you hold it there.
How does Customs get targets?” In fact, the whole conference became interested to know if our Government gives our Customs the target on number of TEUs that should be imported or exported within a period because as far as they know, the amount of revenue has to do with the volume of imports and exports in TEUs. We tried some feeble explanations concerning our system which didn’t convince our international audience. There are a whole lot of things that are not very palatable in our system.
For instance, if you ask them, they have a justification, I mean the politicians, they’ll tell you if you don’t put them on their toes, they will not perform, but I believe a time will come when we will start doing things the right way in Nigeria. If we hope to grow like every other country, we should be able to do things the right way.
Furthermore, he dispelled the view that high target given the NCS is the cause of doubling inflation in the economy. According to him, “it definitely contributes but I think inflation is a function of supply and demand, coupled with the issue of currency and all that. We were told of the fund that was called petroleum subsidy. And then the President of the nation in his first day in office, says it is gone. And before you know what was happening, even those that were imported before the subsidy removal was all sold at the new rate. We all saw how an innocuous statement made by Mr. President on his first day in office, saying subsidy is gone, turned over night that even those fuels that were imported with subsidy, they started selling it high and the NNPC, who should have intervened to say “look, this fuel that we are talking about is already there with you, you are having it based on subsidy. Therefore, you shouldn’t sell it above the subsidized rate.” What did NNPC do? They adjusted even their own meter, because in Nigeria, everybody thinks that his is own action is not contributing to the national disorder. He sees his own action as very immaterial ,but under normal circumstances, NNPC should have said “NO! You cannot sell the fuel you got under subsidy under the new price”. Some state governments tried to do it before you know it, NNPC itself adjusted their meters ,before you know it, they explained certain things in high sounding words. That’s how we came to where we are. This is the standard in Nigeria where people come up with strange decisions, and they will try to justify it. To me wrong people are running the system. People who don’t even have knowledge. You don’t have knowledge and you add lack of patriotism to it, it becomes a disaster. This is what has happened to us over time. Lack of knowledge, coupled with lack of patriotism. Because if people are patriotic there are certain actions they will take and if they don’t know, they ask people.
Zeroing in on his constituenchy, his Association. Association of Nigeria Licenced Customs Agents (ANLCA) and what he expects of the new leadership. He said members should know that “a new dawn is here. And like the president has said, that he wants to restore ANLCA to its former glory, everybody should give him maximum cooperation, so that he can carry out his assignment. In his words, “I expect the new NECOM to actually work for the re-engineering of ANLCA.
In line with their campaign slogan of coming in as the “Restoration Team”. Members and stakeholders are expecting them to restore the glory of ANLCA because for the past 5 years, it has been sheer agony. In fact, being a member of ANLCA would be likened to as being an orphan.
I am very happy and confident that the man Emenike Nwokeoji, actually has a good head on his shoulders. And am not in any doubt that he will do a good job.
Elochukwu has only praises for the Customs Consultative Committee (CCC) for their handling of the ANLCA reconciliation program which has brought peace to the foremost Customs Agent Association, culminating in an all elected NECOM. He said there were disagreements but in the end it decisions arrived at was accepted by all, thanks to the determination of the members of the CCC.