CGC Ali is reforming Nigeria’s Customs to world class standard – Says Comptroller Uba
.Customs will achieve full automation soon
By Udeme Clement
Comptroller Mohammed Uba, the out-going Customs Area Controller, CAC, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone ‘A’ of Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, has served at different capacities in the Service. He has the highest and outstanding records in anti-smuggling activities as well as revenue generation in the history of FOU.
FOU under his watch seized over 100 exotic cars from private homes, over N2.7billion wild life parts (pangolin scales) and swiftly arrested two Chinese suspects without any fear of intimidation, which brought a delegation of United Nations officials to FOU. His remarkable performance earned FOU four commendation letters from CGC Ali Hameed.
Moved by his sterling leadership qualities, Financial Business had an exclusive interview with Uba on the techniques behind FOU’s tremendous achievements and the on-going reforms in the Service.
The Service under CGC Ali Hameed has recorded tremendous success notwithstanding the slow growth in economic activities. What is the secret behind this remarkable achievement?
When you look at the structure of the Service currently, you would realise that CGC Ali Hameed Ali is reforming Nigeria Customs to world class standard. This has shown in all aspects of our activities, on revenue generation, trade facilitation in line with global best practice and anti-smuggling.
Ali is strong filler for the Service. His integrity, transparency and accountability are clearly demonstrated in his leadership approach. His ‘three Rs’, representing reform, restructuring and revenue generation are seen in all areas of Customs operations across the country.
Another thing, which stands Ali out is the fact that he believes so much in merit. To him, things must be done the right way, and with proper approach. He has inculcated the culture of discipline in the Service. Under Ali, prohibited items smuggled into the country by highly placed individuals are seized, in order to ensure sanity in the economic ambience.
Could you give us brief analysis of revenue generation by the Service under the watch of CGC Ali?
The Service has an excellent score card in revenue generation. For instance in 2017, the NCS recorded its highest revenue collection ever with over N1.37trillion raked into the coffers of Federal Government, despite economic recession, which slowed down commercial activities in the economy.
The revenue generation for 2017 economic year was indeed spectacular with about N241.68billion higher than the target of N770.57billion set for 2017. Comparatively, the total revenue was far above N898.67billion realised in 2016 fiscal year.
What measures did the Customs management put in place to achieve this impressive record?
Aside from strict implementation of the Presidential mandate to restructure, reform and raise revenue, other measures taken by the top Customs management include strategic posting of officers and men of the Service, overhauling and re-training of operatives of Customs Intelligence Unit, CIU, as well as prompt reward for hard work and sanctions for offenders.
The Service also ensures automation of procedures through monitoring, tracking infractions, blocking and recovering lost revenues on underpayment. I believe Customs would achieve full automation soon.
What were some of the spectacular seizures last year?
The Service also recorded excellent performance in the level of seizures made the same year, as shown on our records. For example, NCS in its anti-smuggling operations recorded over 4,000 seizures, estimated at the monetary value of over N11billion. Those included outstanding seizures like 2,671 pump action rifles, smuggled pharmaceutical products, hard drugs (Cannabis Sativa), foreign rice, textile materials, vehicles and petroleum products among others.
Last week you addressed a press conference over two hours standing in heavy rain, even when some journalists ran from the scene for shelter. Do you have a Military background like CGC Ali, your boss?
It is self discipline and great determination, with a view to moving our economy forward.
Recently, your Unit intercepted over N2.7billion wild life parts (Pangolin scales) and arrested the Chinese suspects in connection with the prohibited items. How did you secure such spectacular seizure?
We did it through intelligence, which is part of the training and expertise CGC Ali brings to bear in the system. Customs operations at present is intelligence driven, that is why you see officers making mind boggling seizures and arresting so many culprits through intelligence. So, I give credit to the CGC and our officers for this outstanding achievement.
That remarkable seizure of 460 sacks of pangolin scales weighing 12, 264 kg and 218 elephant tusks made it the highest seizure of such endangered species in the history of FOU Zone ‘A’. That seizure of wild life parts among others brought a lot of accolades to the Unit from the CGC and his management team.
We learnt that the Minister of State for Environment led a United Nations delegation to your Unit on that exceptional seizure. Could you give us more insight on this?
Yes, the Minister of State for Environment, Mallam Ibrahim Usman accompanied by the United Nations Charter on CITES delegates, led by Mr. Juan Carlos, who is the Chief Legal Affairs, CITES Headquarters in Geneva, visited our Unit to inspect the seized items, in order to make necessary recommendations to the headquarters.
The Minister commended CGC Ali and our officers at FOU for the outstanding seizure. The UN delegates also promised their support to provide training towards combating illicit trade on endangered species, so that such harmless animals don’t go into extinction. The seized pangolin scales and elephant tusks worth N2.7billion and two Chinese were arrested in connection with the items.
Could you give us brief details of your activities in half year of 2018?
In the period under review, we generated over N8.6billion from seizures and underpayment recoveries. 107 suspects were arrested in connection with 596 different seizures comprising 34,652 smuggled foreign rice (equivalent to 58 trailers); 167 units of exotic vehicles (Toyota Prado/Lexus; bullet proof), Toyota C-HR , Toyota Camry LE, Toyota Prado(s), Toyota Hilux, Ford F150, Pajero Jeeps and Mercedes Benz ranging from 2015-2018 models). Other seizures include 8,987 cartons of frozen poultry products, 4,586 gallons of vegetable oil, 3,463 cartons of different pharmaceutical items, 370 parcels/98 sacks of Indian hemp weighing 1,350kg and general merchandise.
With your enormous contributions to the Service, could you tell us your experience in the job?
I have witnessed a lot of exposure to the world, seen many challenges pose by smugglers and other unpatriotic citizens. One time at Ogun Command, we were on official duty when smugglers attacked us. Our operational vehicle was burnt while we escaped death by a whisker.
When I was the OC border patrol, we were among the first to fight smugglers at a place called ‘Jamtari’, the border between Nigeria and Cameroon. We fought the smugglers, defeated them and seized over 100 gallons of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, (petrol). We snapped our encounter with smugglers and sent to the headquarters. The defunct Gongola State was the second in the nation on number of seizures recorded after Seme then, during the tenure of Comptroller Bello Yamusa.
What helps you to stand out in terms of competence and skills on the job?
Discipline and training received in the Service. Sometimes we encounter some corrupt people trying to entice us to compromise. But refusal to yield and ability to reject such enticement led some of us to where we are now.
Today, there is discipline in the Service with the leadership of CGC Ali. We can confront smugglers and individuals with criminal tendencies without any fear.
Below are background details of Comptroller Uba, his outstanding achievements and rising profile on the job as exceptional Customs officer.
He joined the Service in 1988, where he served in defunct Gongola State Command, as the OC Border Patrol. He worked at that Command for five years, after which he was posted to Kano in June, 1993. He served in Kano till December the same 1993. While in Kano, he was the sectional OC Baggage, at the Aminu Kano International Airport.
In December 1993, he was posted to Ogun Command, where he was made the OC Surveillance at Idiroko, the border between Nigeria and Republic of Benin. He served there till 1996, and was sent to Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, as Officer in charge of Shed ‘4’. His duty there was examination of cargo.
In July1997, Uba was again posted to Kano, where he worked as Baggage Coordinator at airport. There, he was Coordinator at Nigerian Airways NAHCO shed till 2004.
That was not all. In March, 2004, Uba was posted to Onne Command in Port Harcourt, as OC Clean Report of Inspection, CRI, a document necessary for clearing of cargo.
In 2005, at Onne Command, Uba became Assistant Comptroller, and was posted as officer in charge of Federal Ocean Terminal, FOT. In April 2008, he was sent to Customs Headquarters, tariff and trade unit, but later posted to Lilypond, as OC Valuation, till 2009.
The same 2009, Uba became Deputy Comptroller, DC.
So, in 2010, he was sent to kirikiri lighter terminal as DC in charge of SDV terminal.
The Journey did not end there. In 2011, he was posted to Tincan Command, as DC export, where he served till 2013. In the same 2013, he was transferred to Port Harcourt Area-1, and was redeployed the same year to Ogun Command as DC in charge of Import, where he served till 2015 when he became COMPTROLLER.
As the job demands, he was posted back to Headquarters in 2015 as Comptroller in charge of tariff. The same year, he was redeployed as Comptroller posting till October 2016, meaning, he didn’t spend a year when he was posted as Comptroller Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone ‘C’ Owerri, in charge of five Eastern States and 6 South/South States (11 States together).
In May 2017, he assumed office as CAC of FOU Zone ‘A’, Lagos, where he has been chasing smugglers day and night.