Apapa Customs rakes in ₦404 bln, bags WCO awards
Comptroller Bashir Abubakar, is the current Customs Area Controller, CAC, Apapa Command of Nigeria Customs Service, NCS.
The Command under his watch generated over ₦404 billion revenue into the coffers of Federal Government in 2018, recorded ₦73.1billion from exports and ₦9.6 billion on 72 seizures.
These feats earned Apapa Command the World Customs Organisation, WCO, Award, for exceptional performance, bestowed on Comptroller Abubakar, at the just concluded International Customs Day in Abuja.
Only few months ago, Abubakar and his team seized 41 containers of Tramadol worth over ₦8.8 billion, rejected ₦150million bribe offered them by the importer of the drugs.
Abubakar was also the CAC of Onno Customs Command, where the revenue generation of that formation under his watch increased to over 95 percent of the target, before being posted to Apapa, the premier Port.
He has served Customs in various capacities with records of excellent performance at every Command he goes. His hard work and resilience are often seen in his leadership prowess.
He spoke in this interview on activities of Apapa Command and the need for importers to comply with government trade policies.
Your Command is still in the news for huge revenue collection of over ₦404 billion in 2018, with ₦53 billion increase over the amount generated in 2017. How did you achieve this feat?
Discipline is the key. At Apapa Command, discipline is seen in all aspects of our operations. We ensure everything is done according to the rules and in tandem with the extant guidelines. This becomes quite imperative because our goal is to promote economic growth at all times. Nigeria is our country and we must look inward to develop our economy and protect what we have as a people.
Also, we blocked all loopholes and hindrances. In Apapa Command, we ensure Ego Free Relationship, which paves the way for us to synergise with other agencies of government, such as Military, Police, Navy, Standards Organisation of Nigeria, SON, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, National Agency for Food, Drug, Administration and Control, NAFDAC, among other agencies in the Port.
What do you mean by ‘Ego Free Relationship’?
I have realised that as a Civil Servant, I need to humble myself no matter the position, in order to ensure a cordial working relationship with others. Even God says when we humble ourselves, we will be exalted. So, humility allows us at Apapa Command to collaborate well with other agencies of government. We also recognise our stakeholders in the sector.
Within the Service, we have Federal Operations Unit, the Comptroller-General of Customs, CGC, Strike Force and Customs Police, which we also collaborate with. Sometimes we carry out joint operations with these Units. That is why, occasionally, you see containers that are out of the Ports being intercepted by other Units, because at times we allow containers with infractions to reach the owner’s premises, in order to make more arrests.
Another strategy is regular in-house capacity building. This is very important, because our officers’ training is connected to the internet and Customs Server to ensure efficiency in our operations.
The World Customs Organisation, WCO, just honoured your Command with Award of exceptional performance, at the just concluded International Customs Day in Abuja. How will you describe such recognition?
My officers and I at Apapa Command feel highly honoured by the WCO Award; especially as such recognition is coming from the highest body of our profession. Also, we see it as opportunity to do more, because to whom much is given, much is expected.
Your Command realised a whooping sum of ₦404 billion as revenue collection in 2018. What was your target for that period?
The revenue target for Apapa in 2018 fiscal year was ₦426.1 billion. So, the ₦404 billon we generated when compared to the yearly revenue target of ₦426.1 billion represents 95percent collection. In 2017, the Command generated ₦350 billion. Comparatively, it shows that the Command in 2018 collected ₦53 billion more than the amount generated in 2017. This clearly indicates an increase of 13.13percent over what the Command generated in 2017 economic year.
Also, the Command generated ₦73.1 billion from 1.2million metric tons of exported goods within the same period under review. We made 72 seizures of used spare parts, tyres and other items with Duty Paid Value, DPV, of over ₦9.6billion still within that same period.
The unprecedented increase in revenue collection could be attributed to hard work, selfless service by our officers and backup by CGC Ali Hameed.
Other strategies we adopted include insistence on seamless operations of import and export business, 24 hours dispute resolution mechanism, one spot examination for all agencies to ensure 24 hours cargo clearance from the Port.
What are your challenges in Apapa Command?
The issue of non-compliance with fiscal policies poses a big challenge in our work. At present, we blocked about 1,000 containers with infractions on imports. We have directed the owners of such containers to follow appropriate import procedures.
In the period under review, we achieved a high level of compliance on export declaration. However, about 2,500 containers were blocked and directed to comply with the requisite guidelines on export trade. So, about 1,600 out of over 2,000 containers have perfected their documents and passed through Customs examination.
Our position on importation is very clear. Apapa Command today is the most seamless in terms of Customs procedures. And if importers have any issue, let them send their representatives to my office for inquiry, instead of raising false alarm of extortion.
What we are saying is that, we must do the right thing by following the import guidelines in bringing goods to the country. Before any importation of items to Nigeria, the traders should visit the nearest Customs formation to make enquiry on the items they want to bring, to know what the law says.
For instance, you need to parley with Electricity Company to bring in a transformer. Also, there are goods under the control of SON and NAFDAC. So, for you to bring in such goods, you must first pass through these agencies to get their permit. The law is very clear on this.
Another challenge is the bad condition of the Port access road that is equally affecting our operations.
Few months ago, the attention of the whole country was attracted to your Command following a seizure of 41 containers of Tramadol, even as your men rejected ₦150 million bribe offered by the importer. How will you describe this kind of scenario?
It is part of the discipline we are talking about and the need to put national interest first in doing our job. The Command seized and condemned the 41 x 40ft containers of controlled pharmaceutical drugs including Tramadol worth over ₦8.8 billion, as the drugs were imported to the country in excess of the allowable milligram.
The lesson is that, all of us should do the right thing at all times. Nigeria must not be a dumping ground for all kinds of items.