Compt. Timi Bomodi, Customs Controller, Seme Area Command.
DuringCustoms Operations, Decisions Taken within Split Seconds Can Save Lives or plunge you In Crisis – Customs Source
…for us, it has always been between facilitation of trade and control
By Jerry Aguigbo
The Nigeria Customs Service in recent times has upped the Ante in it’s Anti Smuggling activities, with trade facilitation being the watchword. The partial border reopening has given vent to the anticipation of heightened cross border activities, both legitimate and illegitimate, and also through approved routes and others.
TodayNews spoke with a Customs source who said that the Federal Government needs to work out modalities for the expected higher volume of trade across these borders.
According to him the government has to also spell out what comes in and those that will not be allowed.
“There must be some level of restriction, if there are none, then it will come with some negative effects on the economy. However, facilitation of trade is always positive and we Collaborate to secure the borders, which will also translate to added responsibilities. This only means that our officers and men have to sit up and work extra hard.”
furthermore, our source stated that the function of the Nigeria Customs Service has been between facilitation of trade and control. “With the increase in the volume of trade coming with reopening the borders, there will be concealments, so we need to also step up intelligence to deal with it. This can only translate to a lot of positives; the System is empowering us with more personnel, as you can see, there a host of new intakes posted to various units and Commands, that is to say, there won’t be any problem with that,” he enthused.
He says that at this stage, interagency Collaboration is very key, “sometimes on the levels up, there seems to be close rapport with the leaders but on Operational level, it is difficult. There’s always this unhealthy rivalry; the Customs wants to dominate at the borders, Immigration wants to lead, the police wants to take charge, the Army wants to be ahead with control and So on. The only way to function maximally is to share intelligence, that is what makes the work Swift and sweet.”
Our source further posited that rivalry at the tactical level does not allow for proper information and intelligence sharing, which he sees as detrimental to the job.
However, he says that there’s still a measure of Collaboration between Agencies,” by and large, we still share intelligence and that is why we are succeeding, we are beginning to have a better understanding, there are bound to be hiccups here and there but things are looking up for a better relationship,” he said.
On their challenges and relationship with the border communities, he says, ” it has not been easy, though I don’t see it as a challenge because, if I may put it this way, we are chasing people who have invested millions of Naira, though wrongly. Nobody wants you to destroy their investments. Sometimes you apprehend people with 10, 20 or more bags of rice, they try to coax and sway you a little and when this does not work, they threaten you with violence, but what you should note is that, their extent of vulnerability is a natural instinct to defend what they think is theirs, whether legitimately acquired or not.
The level of hospitality at the Seme end of the border is better compared to what you have at Idiroko for instance, the people at Seme are very hospitable and so there are things we get away with here that we can’t do at some other border.”
On the way forward, he says Customs Operation is evolving, ” human relations and Crisis resolution should be taken into consideration. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) are also valid ways of reaching out to the host communities and these should be taken seriously,” he stated.
According to our source, ” most times the actual field work is instinctive, intuitive or most times, discretional, you are faced with situations where you have to take decisions within Split Seconds, this can save lives or plunge you and others into serious crisis. Sometimes you can’t even decipher why you are moving on without molestation.”
Noting that Customs at various Command levels have a checkered pattern, our source was asked how he has been able to cope with this. In his words, “there’s always something to learn from different leaders both past and present, It is important for me to find out their work pattern and study them carefully. I’m naturally not the talking type but you have to note their leadership style, that’s the starting point for me. It hasn’t been very difficult for me. Maybe because of my background as a teacher and coming from parents who were both teachers too. I am a very teachable person and also, you have to note that enforcement is filled with intelligence and it needs diligence, having these different leaders have been an opportunity to learn from all in diverse areas and it is gravitating me to the kind of person I want to be,” he said.
Also giving insight on how difficult or easy it has been to also get those under him to really understand what he wants them to do. He says, ” it takes a lot of hard work for you to get people to see things from your own perspective, being the leader of the group, you must also see from their perspective sometimes, that is the only way to get things moving. I have also had the opportunity to train people under me, to transfer knowledge, you must be empowered to empower others and sometimes when it becomes emotionally and passionately challenging, we go to our superiors, this is our lifestyle on the job and it’s sometimes, very challenging,” he said.