The newly deployed Assistant Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs (Zone B), Bashir Abubakar seems to have come on board with a more sophisticated approach to taming the menance of smuggling in his new area of command. ISAIAH BENJAMIN captures some of the measures so far taken.
When Assistant Comptroller General of Customs (ACG), Bashir Abubakar, recently took over the affairs of Nigeria Customs Service (NSC) Zone ‘B’ headquarters in Kaduna as the Zonal Coordinator, he admitted to have met a tidy command and disciplined officers and men to work with, but with additional call on the personnel to double up their efforts for maximum output. But hardly had he settled down in the office when he noticed that there was a problem that needed urgent solution if the zone must meet its target revenue as well as to stem the activities of smugglers within the zone.
The problem, according to ACG Bashir, was lack of adequate information flow between the Customs and the host communities through which the smugglers carry out their smuggling business. Upon assumption of office, he said, “One area that we need to improve is community custom relationships for information, because the first problem I noticed when I took charge of this zone is lack of information from host communities to Customs in the zone. ‘We will reach out to the communities, leaders, traditional leaders and groups for adequate information. We need to show case to the people how to make proper exportation and importation of goods and services legitimately” he emphasized.
However, the zonal Coordinator lamented that the revenue generation of the zone, which according to him is the life-wire of the country, is threatened by Boko Haram insurgency and other security challenges in recent years. ACG Bashir recalled that prior to the advent of the dreaded Boko Haram insurgency and other security challenges, the zone was known for sub-saharan trading activities and high volume of cargo goods coming into the entire north. In another fora when the Zonal Customs Boss received executive members of Nigeria Union of Journalists ( NUJ), Kaduna state council on a courtesy call in his office, he reiterated, “This zone, and all northern part is the life-wire of the country in terms of trading activities and revenue generation. This is even traced to the history of Sub-Saharan trading routes domiciled in Kano, Chad, Burkina Faso, and so on and so forth.
\“The volume of Cargo goods coming to the north was so much, but insecurity has reduced the cargo drastically. So I look at the zone as economic importance to the nation, and administratively too. We now have the dry port, national and international airports in the zone.
“But activities of Boko Haram and other security issues have hampered alot of economic contributions from and with other countries in terms of economic activities in the zone.
“We intend to organize import and export seminar in the zone where relevant stakeholders will be invited to improve their services. This is going to be the first of its kind in the zone.
“I have worked in zamfara and in the Southern Part of the country, and you know that no meaningful project can be achieved without involving the media, not only for customs.
“We want to collaborate with the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) to help in informing the Customs Service wherever and whenever it is going wrong. However, you should ensure that junk journalism is checked to sanitize the profession.
“The Customs will also try to find out whether the officers and men are well equipped to perform their duties. But there is high level of discipline in the Customs, and whoever is not disciplined may not enjoy promotion”.
The unassuming Customs Boss, Abubakar said he would rather preferred to be criticised for not doing well on the job than to be praised for the good work he has done, while stressing that pointing out his inadequacies would make him sit up and improve on areas he may be found wanting.
“Don’t pour encomium on me, but tell me where I have gone wrong so that I can sit up and perform better. I am a human being and bound to make mistakes, but if you keep on praising me all the time, how do I know I have gone wrong along the line”. He said.
While addressing personnel of the zone upon assumption of office recently, ACG Abubakar told the officers and men that he would not tolerate any form of indiscipline from them. The zonal Customs Boss charged officers and men of the zone to be disciplined at all times, just as he warned smugglers to stay cleared of the zone, otherwise the long arms of the law would not spare them. He even added that being a disciplined officer is one of the criteria for promotion and award winning in the service. He charged them to redouble their efforts at taking the service to an enviable height by allowing their training and experience to bear.
He urged them to desist from all forms of indiscipline and lukewarm attitudes to work. This was even as he warned smugglers of contraband goods to stay out of the business for the progress of the country or face the wrath of the law.
The Customs Boss appealed to members of the public to expose anybody in smuggling business. “You must operate within the confines of the law so as not to bring the service to disrepute. We must work together as a team to boost the revenue generation profile of Commands in the zone”.
The zonal coordinator however promised to operate an open door policy, adding that he will not hesitate to discipline any erring officer accordingly.
ACG Abubakar said he is a disciplinarian, and so for the staff to go along with him in line of duty, they must as well be disciplinarians.
“I am a disciplinarian to the core, punctuality to work, neatness and strict adherence to laid down rules must be your watch words, any form of abscondment from duty without due approval will not be tolerated.
“However, I have received good news about this zone and wish to urge you all to sustain the good works. It is not going to be easy for smugglers and their accomplice under my watch”. Abubakar said.
Following a hard working spirit he exhibited at the Apapa Command, Bashir Abubakar was promoted as Assistant Comptroller General of Customs (ACG), Headquarters.
It is on record that within his short stay at Apapa, the ACG recorded outstanding performance in revenue generation, trade facilitation and anti-smuggling operations. He was honoured with the World Customs Organization (WCO) award for exceptional performance after he made a remarkable seizure of 41 containers of tramadol worth more than N7.3 billion. The officers in his Command who seized the large consignment of tramadol were said to have rejected a bribe of N150 million offered them by the importers of the seized item.
Abubakar, a 1984 graduate of Industrial Design from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, joined the Nigeria Customs Service in 1987 as a Cadet Superintendant and rose through the ranks to become a Comptroller in 2014.
The ACG Abubakar, a versatile and well articulated administrator is a WCO ( World Customs Organisation) and CGC Award winning Customs officer.
He is adored by his colleagues and the media who often refer to him as, “Mr. Revenue and due Process”, because of his strong desire to always boost the revenue profile of every Command he works and country at large.
There is no doubt that with the coming on board of a workaholic and a disciplinarian in the person of ACG Abubakar, Nigerian Customs Zone ‘B’ will not only witness a boost in revenue generation but also a drastic reduction in smuggling activities if he will indeed match his words with actions.