The theme of the International Customs Day (ICD) 2020, is all-encompassing and people-centred. It is “Customs Fostering Sustainability for People, Prosperity and the Planet”, which is aimed at highlighting the impactful activities of the Customs Service all over the world towards ensuring a sustainable future for all that caters to the social, economic, health and environmental needs of the people.Unlike the previous years, 2020 is quite challenging for Customs in Nigeria and globally as it has continued to operate in a distraught environment orchestrated by the COVID-19 pandemic that is currently ravaging the world.How has Comptroller Aliyu Galadima Saidu, the Customs Area Controller of Port Harcourt Area II, Command, Onne Port, been weathering the storm ? Inside Watch Africa (IWA) took him on and the interview runs thus:IWA: Sir, what steps are you taking to ensure a sustainable future for a social and stable environment in your Area command?Saidu: When I assumed office as the Area Controller of this command, it occurred to me that in order to deliver successfully on my set goals and mandate, I needed to collapse all
unnecessary bureaucracies that could hinder all stakeholders from having free access to me, and I did. Then I deliberately reached out to all stakeholders, particularly heads of ministries, departments and agencies of government in the area command. In fact, we have become friends, and operate on a very cordial basis. It is for this reason that, although we all have different mandates, since we are from different departments and agencies, I have ensured that everyone feels a sense of belonging and we are able to effortlessly collaborate to achieve our set corporate goals. Whatever enquiry or assistance that is needed, a phone call can just be placed and the enquiry or assistance will be promptly attended to.IWA: What are you doing to ensure that the businesses of legitimate traders are sustained?Saidu: We are primarily trade facilitators thus in this area command we do everything we can to encourage compliant traders. In fact, without sounding immodest, I can proudly say that the turnaround time for clearing cargoes in this area command is probably the shortest when compared to all others in the federation.
We have a conflict resolution committee whereby issues, protests are resolved within the shortest possible time and we are also lucky that some of our terminal operators, recently acquired modern equipment for offloading and loading containers. We also try to constantly sensitize the operators here on the need to be compliant and how cheaper it is for them in the long run when they are compliant.IWA: What measures are you deploying particularly during this period of Coronavirus pandemic to protect the lives of your officers and men as well as all stakeholders that do business in this Command?Saidu: Although, this is a peculiar time in the history of the world when everyone has suddenly become health and safety conscious but anyone that is familiar to this area command will tell you that from time immemorial we have always been a stickler to health and safety rules in this area command. Therefore, the sensitization campaign to play safe and stay safe is on ongoing and all our officers and men have been fully kitted with face mask and hand gloves, particularly the boarding officers that board ships and vessels, they are all fully kitted with PPE.Recently the headquarters sent us a lot of
equipment for personal safety because our boarding officers board foreign vessels and because of the risks involved they are fully kitted. We also got a donation of some cartons of hand sanitizers, face masks and hand gloves from one of our terminal operator – WACT. Furthermore, we have reduced the number of officers and men in our offices, and we have also adjusted our roaster even before the federal government’s directive came up so that we have less human contact and visitors coming to our offices Except you have serious issues, we don’t allow personal visits into our premises and at all our entrances we have washing hand equipment and sanitizers. Recently, I just issued a port order on the compulsory use of the face mask. IWA: What is the command doing to take care of any environmental hazard?Saidu: Protection of the society and the environment happens to be one of the cardinal building blocks of modern customs worldwide. So even before the outbreak of the coronavirus, many years back, customs worldwide have been emphasizing on clean and healthy environment and that is why the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is fully involved in safety of the environment campaign. I must also say that we are principally mindful of the havoc that hazardous chemical can do to our environment; thus our “antennas’’ are up and we are always on the look out to prevent toxic chemical in any form or disguise from being smuggled into the country.