From Uche Usim, Abuja
The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Hameed Ali, on Wednesday, disclosed that suspects arrested in connection with the arms-laden container at Tin Can Island Port in Lagos last December have been dragged before a Lagos High Court for prosecution, following the successful completion of its internal investigations on the matter.
Ali made the disclosure in Abuja at a media briefing held on the sidelines of the 2022 International Customs Day celebrations themed: “Scaling up Customs Digital Transformation by Embracing a Digital Culture and Building a Data Ecosystem”.
According to him, when officials of the NCS intercept illicit goods and arrest the suspects connected to them, a thorough investigation is usually carried out before a court arraignment.
‘So now, we’re before the court and we shall ensure we get justice. The court is in Lagos. Anyone interested can approach our legal department to get the details to know when the next court case comes up,’ Ali stated.
On the 2022 revenue target given to the NCS by the federal government, the Customs boss clarified that the figure remains N3.1 trillion and not N4.1 trillion being reported by some sections of the media.
On accusations that Customs seems to be focused on revenue generation and gradually ditching trade facilitation, Ali said it was a flawed narrative; stating that Customs remains a major revenue generator and trade facilitator of the country and as such cannot downplay one role and promote the other.
‘We are a major contributor to the economy of Nigeria. You can’t facilitate trade without revenue. Then the third arm is national security. No aspect of our mandate is raised above the other. They go hand in hand,’ he explained.
To deepen trade facilitation, the Customs CG noted that three multidimensional scanners have been deployed in Apapa, Tin Can and Onne seaports.
‘They detect organic and inorganic substances. We can’t facilitate trade manually, hence our investments in digital operations.
‘e-Customs will ensure we have 135 scanners in all our ports and land borders. In the next two years, no point of entry and exit will not have scanners. They have the capacity to scan 20 containers in one hour. It’ll store images and we can do analysis with them,’ he stated
Ali also spoke on the need for a Customs data ecosystem to be built on trust in recognition of the extensive volume of data the Service collects on actors in the international trade chain including the citizens, government agencies, local and transnational companies.
He noted that the growth of NCS’ capacity to facilitate more trade transactions peaked at 858,843 transactions in 2021.
‘This translates to a 17.26% increase in the volume of transactions handled in the year 2020. Another, patent result of our effort in this regard is in our landmark revenue collection of NGN 2.28 trillion in 2021. All these would not be possible without digital transformation and scaling up the use of data”, he said.
In his goodwill message, the Secretary General of the World Customs Organisation (WCO), Dr Kunio Mikuriya, said the focus of global Customs operations in 2022 will be on digital data that Customs administrations collect in large volume through digital technology.
‘Throughout this year, Customs Community will be focusing on how to create an operating model in a fully digitalized environment that captures and exploits data.
‘To build a data ecosystem or consolidate existing ones, the following enabling actions may be considered: establishing formal data governance to ensure the relevance, accuracy and timeliness of data; making use of international standards regarding data format and data exchange; ensuring that the right people have access to the right data and that protection regressions are respected; and adopting progressive approaches such as data analytics to collect and successfully exploit data to drive decision making,’ he said.
Mikuriya added that a robust data culture empowers people to ask questions, challenges ideas and rely on detailed insight, not just intuition or incision, to make evidence-based decisions.