Strategic Partnership has Brought Peace Back to Idiroko — Comptroller Francis

Has revenue and seizure profile increased since you were posted to Ogun State as the Controller, Customs Area command, Idiroko?
I reported here on December 5, 2012 with a clear directive from the comptroller- General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), in the person of Alhaji Abudullahi Inde Dikko (CFR) to ‘hit the ground running’. And of course, that is what I did and anchoring on the six-point agenda of the CGC which is a guide to all of us in the service. For the implementation of my own mission and vision for the Ogun State Customs Command, I can say that so far we have been able to record appreciable success that one can see physically. In terms of revenue collected for 2012, we are in the region of N5.31 billion as against N3.6 billion recorded in 2011. This is an increase difference of N1.64billion. In January 2013, which is usually a slow month for the service, I must say to you that we started well. We were able to generate N568.4 million as against N386.7 million collected in the same period in 2011. You can see the difference?
We have also increased and of course re energised the system, the structures put in place ensured that in our anti-smuggling, we surpassed the previous record. In 2012, we had 1,081 seizures with Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N893.7 million. And of course 70 per cent of the seizures were vehicles. That was in 2012. For January 2013 alone, where people normally feel there is a downward trend in the activities of the service and when it comes to anti-smuggling, everybody will relaxes till the month of March. We worked assiduously to checkmate the activities of these dare-devil smugglers, as we made about 93 seizures with a DPV of N88.2 Million. I must say that, of this seizure, 86 were vehicles. All these are far above that of 2011. But from records, the seizures of 2012 were more.

Where commands are complaining of down turn in both revenue and seizures, you are increasing in both of them. What are you doing that other command controllers are not doing?
Well, let me say it is the effect of what we put in place in terms of orientation and strategising on our anti-smuggling strategies: Partnering with our stakeholder and in particular host communities. Both youths, elders, traditional institutions  we are not leaving any group out. Energising and mobilising men and officers of the command and of course, having also imbibed the six point agenda of the CGC and as par my training and calling, am not new in the Customs. Am 30 years old in the service and I have been doing this job since I left the university. I have no other job than this Customs job. I must say, that has helped in no small measure. I have worked in almost every area of the service and that has helped me as a Comptroller today.

Before now, there used to be casualties in both sides; some maimed for life, others dead, official vehicles burnt, arms and ammunition stolen from the service personnel. In giving out your impressive revenue and seizure profile, I believe there were causalities in the process. How many from your command.
To the glory of God, there is no causality from both sides. And that is another strategy that today customs is working under an atmosphere that is conducive. An environment that is not life threatening, even though we work in a hazardous environment.
This area was tagged a jungle, but in that jungle, we are achieving results. This area has been known for its volatile nature, its hiccups, but since my inception, I must say that the strategy put in place is working. The communities that should have come to the defence of the smugglers are now better informed and enlightened. They now know the ills of smuggling and they no longer partner with smugglers. The traditional rulers here do not even want them in their communities because they know and want progress in their community. And the only way to partner with the government is to ensure that revenue is generated for the government and indeed the nation. And they therefore, collaborate with us in our anti-smuggling drive.

In terms of equipment, are your men adequately equipped to wage war against the smugglers?

I must say that the CGC has tried. The equipment and infrastructure we have is adequate, but of course I must say there is room for improvement some of our equipment are obsolete, but however, I must say our equipment and infrastructure are adequate to do the needful, but we can also do better if more is given to us.

The service comes out with a theme: ‘Border Divide; Customs Connect’. How has the service connected all across boundaries and borders, especially in Ogun State Customs Command, being a border Command?

Part of the six point agenda of the CGC from inception is for us to partner with all international organisations and of course countries. When I came in, we resuscitated the joint border security meeting. And of course we have been able to put in a committee that resolves frictions that involve the two neighbouring countries. These groups are headed by the head of security agencies both in Nigeria and the Republic of Benin and things that would have degenerated into serious conflicts between the two countries, have been nipped in the bud. And of course quick resolutions are assured and ascertained through these methods. We have again done interchange of experience and in our strategies, we collaborate and share information. We ensure that things that we do not want in Nigeria do not pass through our border, and what they do not like does not enter into their country through our border. Right now, the CGC has signed Memorandum of understanding with the Customs of Benin Republic to ensure that goods on transit to Nigeria through Republic of Benin are passed to us and escorted to Nigeria border, especially vehicles. And to this effect, at Idiroko, we have cleared acres of land where actually we can take in these vehicles and duties can be assessed and collected.  We are waiting the final endorsement of the MOU by the two countries. We have been holding series of meeting both here and in that country between security agencies. I initiated it during my coming in and it is working well for us. Any crook that escapes from us here will be nabbed in Benin Republic because of our collaboration. We collaborate with all the agencies and the issue of robbery has reduced drastically. They are very humane and discipline and I enjoy working with them.

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