Uche Usim, Abuja
Aliyu Galadima Saidu, is the Customs Area Controller of Portharcourt Area II Command, Onne Port, Rivers State.
In this interview held shortly after a recent stakeholders meeting with government agencies and port users, he reveals that compliant port users make more profit and utilise time wisely than those seeking to short change the government or evade duty payment.
N14.2bn 2020 revenue target
I don’t see it as my singular effort. There was effective stakeholders collaboration and management which we are ready to continue with, like you witnessed today. I just had an enlarged town hall meeting with the stakeholders including sister government agencies.
They have all agreed with me again to continually improve on compliance and abide by rules. I am optimistic, we can do better than what we did before.
I started first with my own officers and men. I got them to be on the same page with me before I commenced sensitising others . I made them to understand that it is safer and better for them to be law abiding. I preach to them to shun compromise,as the Comptroller General has always done.
For importers and agents, I emphasise to them that it is cheaper to comply than attempting to cut corners.
Those who embraced this message from us now have many reasons to be happy. They also pass it to others and this is helping us to achieve the goals set for us by the government.
It is an ongoing process. I have plans for vigorous and intensive training for our stakeholders. These training sessions will boost their capacity in line with modern customs procedures. Maybe, after the training, we can evaluate their levels better but I can say they are not doing badly and there is room for improvement
Yes, some persons went to break containers and steal seized tramadol drugs. While they attempted bribing one of my officers to get the stolen drugs out. I asked the officer to play along.
The officer came to my office and kept negotiating with them on the phone. They agreed to give him N10 million while promising to pay N1 million immediately.
When they brought the money after stealing the drugs, it was at that point we arrested them with the bribe money as evidence of their failed attempt to compromise us. The drugs were also in their hands from the vandalised containers which confirmed their involvement in the unlawful act.
The suspects have been charged before a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt and they have been remanded in Port Harcourt Prison.
We are not being left behind. The Comptroller-General of Customs had warned that officers who are unwilling to sharpen their knowledge of ICT should see themselves as irrelevant in the customs of the future. That is the in thing , especially with the E- Customs project that we are about to roll out. This will make our job easier.
On the assessment of our men, I will be the wrong person to do that because my background is ICT and my unit in the service is ICT. I try to make people working around me to appreciate the importance and relevance of ICT in our modern day customs operations. Scoring my people high may sound partial but I can say that we have officers you can be proud of in modern customs operations. Because our standards is high ,when some of our officers in this Command got promoted from Chief Superintendent of Customs to Assistant Comptrollers, we did not grant them access to release cargoes through the system until the Deputy Comptroller in charge of revenue confirmed that they were now above average in ICT knowledge. We insist on due diligence here.
Excellent! I have been enjoying tremendous support from them and I must say it has been very commendable and contributory to the realisation of our corporate objective as a service in this port.
I am happy you witnessed our meeting today and saw their full presence. We are one big family working for the same government and same country.
Recently the Director-General of Standards Organisation of Nigeria, Osita Aboloma, was on ground here and he commended the robust relationship between customs and SON. This is one of many examples of our relationship with other services.
The core of today’s meeting is that we all agreed to work together as usual, identify any bottleneck to smooth operations and jointly seek solutions to them. I will continue meetings with my command management team , draw agenda and strategies with them and do weekly evaluations of progress made or challenges encountered.
Target has been set for us and we all believe it is not only achievable, it is surmountable too. We are consciously aiming to meet daily , weekly, monthly and our annual targets.
Training of Customs agents
Sometime back in Lagos, I was the lead facilitator for the training of agents and we did that training for three months then. Now, I have carried out training needs analysis and developed improved modules especially on modern customs techniques . This is an upgraded training content that will address more of our day to day issues.
Yes, we have the challenge of port access road, especially during the rainy season. The road is bad, we know. Sometimes a container may fall and block other vehicles from passing through. It affects movements of vehicles coming in and going out of our port
That has not hampered our internal workings here. When it comes to clearing cargoes from this port, the maximum amount of time a compliant trader will spend here is six hours.
Like I tried to explain earlier, a compliant port user saves time and money thereby making more gains than a non compliant one. Within six hours your consignments are out from our port. The poor road infrastructure doesn’t affect this in any way.
This is influenced by attitude of our officers in facilitating trade and treating transactions timely and compliance.
From the time you make your declaration to the time the containers are positioned for examination,you don’t spend more than six hours through the process.