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Not all Nigerian borders are opened— Comptroller-General

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The acting Comptroller-General of Customs,
CG Adewale Adeniyi on Tuesday visited President Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR at the Presidential Villa. Shortly after the visit, he spoke to journalists on sundry issues of national importance. FOLARIN OWOBIBI was there for ROYAL NEWS ONLINE. Excerpts:

 

CG Adewale Adeniyi

Appreciation to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu

First I want to express gratitude to Mr. President for finding me worthy being appointed the Acting Comptroller General of customs and also to felicitate with him for his recent appointment as the chairman of ECOWAS. For us in the Nigerian Customs Service, ECOWAS represents a very bold attempt to forge regional integration, cooperation in border security and monetary affairs. And it is so good to note that my assumption of Office coincide with that period when attention will be focused on Nigeria holding the flag of regional integration.

I had the opportunity to have very useful discussions and a very constructive engagement with His Excellency, Mr. President. And for all of you that have known him, I’ve worked with him very, very closely. You know that, Mr. President, is a very good listener. We had discussions regarding what customs can bring to the table, to actualize the vision of renewed hope for Nigeria, what customers can do in terms of addressing gaps in revenue generation in the customs, our enforcement strategies, and, most importantly, the issue of promoting port efficiency and competitiveness of our ports.

So these are generally the issues that we discussed. And I believe that in the days ahead, we will be prioritising some of these issues for the benefits of the Nigerian economy.

There’s a recent report to merge customs with some other revenue generating agencies like FIRS under one particular agency. What’s your take about this?

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Yeah, I read that report just like you did. We don’t have any details yet. What I feel is that there is a common base between all those agencies that are generating revenue for the country. And then there are some cross cutting issues. There are some areas where we overlap. And there are some areas where we can complement each other. But in terms of bringing the agencies together under one organization, we are yet to get details of that. And we’ll be waiting to get the details and see how that pans out.

Any specific instructions from Mr President on customs activities and assignment?

Yes. In terms of specifics, I am sure that we are all very, very familiar with the Presidential Advisory Council. And there is a document which has been made public. Our discussions centers around aligning the vision of customs, the activities of custome in the short, medium and long terms with those noble objectives set out in the PAC documents.

So we’re talking about making our ports user friendly, we’re talking about decongesting the ports, we talked about 48 hours clearance of goods around the ports, export led inward looking economic development strategies. So these are some of the issues that we discussed. And I pledged commitment of the customs to bring out reforms and to collaborate with other agencies of government to achieve some of those objectives stated in the PSC documents.

You were reported as saying despite fuel subsidy removal smuggling persists and that you want to curb that can take okay, I was just saying. How deep is this problem right now? What do you intend to do?

Well, sometimes we just want to assume that because of the subsidy, the problem will evaporate one day. So the sense I was trying to create was that it might take some time, before the issue of smuggling of fuel across the border will completely dissipate. So in some border areas, we had reports of seizures of fuel and that is what we heard. So it was the assumption generally, that because of the fuel is now sold at N500 per liter it will be a disincentive for smuggling. But contrary to that, we have seen that they are smuggling it across the borders. The rate at which this is being smuggled has reduced considerably. And it is our hope that by the time we mix some of these other policies that government is working on, it will completely eliminate the problems of smuggling of fuel across borders.

Is it true that the president has ordered the reopening of all Nigerian borders?

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Well, it is not true that all Nigerian borders have been opened. The status quo ante still exists in the borders. If you remember that the borders were completely shut down 2018 up until 2022, when some selected strategic borders were reopened, that is to the situation as we speak. And this was why we had an adhoc arrangement of a special unit coordinated by the Office of the NSA to enforce that border closure. But as we speak, about five of them have been reopened. Four were initially reopened and two more were open after that. And that is still the situation. There are ongoing processes to review this situation against the objective of the border closure itself. And the processes are not yet completed. And of course, when the borders are reopened, it’s not going to be subject of rumour in any way.

I can also tell you that part of my discussions with Mr. President is to actively engage customs administration’s across our borders, particularly the strategic ones that we must work and collaborate with for us to achieve common objectives of border security and regional integration. In the next one week, or thereabout, I will be paying an official visit to Republic of Benin, to have discussions with the Customs Administration of Benin, and see how we can take forward the issue of collaborations between us, the issue of border security, the issue of importation across the border, and more importantly, how we can deploy technological solutions to very complex border problems.

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