“One of the surest way to having good health is cleanliness”.. – Comptroller Abba-Kura, Customs Area Controller of Apapa Area Command.

Like the experience of most people, it is very unlikely to forget the year 2020 and its concomitant challenges and upheavals in a hurry. I had never imagined that anything could negatively impact our world as the Coronavirus pandemic has done. It is for this reason that I have continued to ponder on the theme of 2020 International Customs Day (ICD) celebration, “Customs Fostering Sustainability for People, Prosperity and the Planet”, which is aimed at highlighting the actions that Customs Service all over the world is taking towards ensuring a sustainable future that caters to the social, economic, health and environmental needs of the people.

So IWA decided to take on some Customs Area Controllers in Nigeria on the theme. Their responses are as instructive as they are insightful. On the efforts and activities of Apapa Area Command in this challenging period, Comptroller Abba-Kura, the Customs Area Controller of the Command has these to say:

IWA: Sir, what steps are you taking to ensure a sustainable future for a social environment in your Area command?

Abba-Kura: As you know, Apapa is the premier port in Nigeria, thus human traffic in and out of the Area command is usually very high. So to start with, the Area Command was designed and built to be well secured and ready for a lot of business activities. Now since I resumed here as the Area Controller and very conscious of this fact, I have continued to systematically build on and fortify both the human capital and physical infrastructures met on ground to ensure that whoever comes to do legitimate business in Apapa Area command will do it in a conducive and business-friendly environment. I have deliberately created a level playing field for every person/stakeholder that comes to do business here in accordance with world best practices. My officers and men also know that all stakeholders must feel welcomed to Apapa Area Command and their needs must be attended to with dispatch and as at when due.

IWA: What steps are being taken to ensure that the businesses of legitimate traders are sustained?

Abba-Kura: Like I said earlier, we make sure that there is a level playing field for every stakeholder that does business in our Area, we deploy every resources at our disposal and do everything that is humanly possible to encourage legitimate trade in this Command. Once declarations are done the way they are supposed to be done, definitely there will be no delays whatsoever and I, as the area controller, make sure that all mails that come to my table are cleared with dispatch and ensure that everyone down the line does the same.
Everyone knows that any stakeholder that has any issue at any point in the area command is free and always welcome to see me and I make sure that any complaint or observation is solved there and then and those that cannot be solved immediately, will always be referred to the Area Dispute Resolution Committee to look into it. Where a dispute is established, we make sure that the trade is facilitated either by the declarant bringing bank bond that is equivalent to the duty and other charges that they are supposed to pay and we release the consignment. And whenever that dispute is resolved, if it is in favor of the declarant, we write to the bank to cancel that bond and if the dispute is resolved in favor of the Nigeria Customs Service, we equally write the bank and the bond is converted into Customs duty and other related charges which is paid directly into the coffers of the Federal Republic Of Nigeria.

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?

Abba-Kura:Immediately the Federal Government swung into action through Ministry of Health and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), we followed suit. With the directives from Customs headquarters, we immediately provided water kegs with taps, detergents to wash hands and sanitizers. We placed one at the gate, then at the entrance of the Customs Processing Centre (CPC), leading to my office. We equally have electronic sanitizers stationed in and around the CPC. The Desk Officers at all the entrances leading to the CPC have body temperature monitoring devices to check the temperature of everyone entering the CPC. If somebody’s temperature is okay he or she is then allowed to come in and that is after washing their hands and sanitizing their hands. Everyone is also expected to wear a face mask before they are allowed into the CPC. This same measures are replicated in all terminals and bonded warehouses of the command.

IWA: What is the command doing to avert any environmental hazard ?

Abba-Kura: Health is wealth, and one of the surest way to achieving a good health is cleanliness, thus we make ensure that our environment is kept clean in this Area Command always. In some way, our duty as Customs Officers is like that of an Octopus. Apart from revenue generation and rendering account for what is collected, we equally carry out anti-smuggling; we make sure that all the things that are harmful to the country are not allowed to come in. Even if they find their way into the port we will make sure that they are detained, seized and eventually get court judgment to condemn them. Apart from that, we equally facilitate legitimate trade by strictly implementing federal government fiscal policies that will enhance the development of local industries. The federal government in its wisdom sometimes imposes certain taxes on certain imports that are equally being produced locally.  By imposing all these levies and taxes on those items, it will go a long way in making the local industries to grow and flourish. Our relationship with other stakeholders and sister government agencies is very cordial; whether it is NAFDAC, SON, NDLEA, Shippers’ Council, or the NPA. We are aware of the statutes that guide their functions, thus whenever they come around or they need our assistance to carry out their functions, we always make sure we render such assistance.

“We do everything we can to encourage compliant traders”. – Comptroller Aliyu Galadima Saidu, Customs Area Controller PortHarcourt Area II Onne Port.

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.  

“We tell and retell Positive Africa”- Yomi Badejo-Okusanya (YBO), President of African Public Relations Association (APRA)

Truth be told that we all have a major role to play in the way other people perceive us. It is said that “There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception,” thus for Africa to achieve its full potential and take its rightful place in the world, she has a lot to do in managing how she is perceived by the rest of the world. Therefore, some members of the Inside Watch Africa (IWA) team, recently paid a visit to the President of the African Public Relations Association (APRA) – Mr.Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, also popularly known as YBO in his office in Lagos, Nigeria, to get a first-hand information on what 

(APRA) is doing to corporately manage the image of Africa.

Mr. Yomi Badejo-Okusanya is a consummate public relations practitioner and the Group Managing Director of one of Nigeria’s foremost communication consulting groups, CMC Connect (Perception Managers).  With over two decades of work experience in the Marketing Communications and perception management industry in Nigeria and internationally cutting across Corporate Communications, Government Relations, Marketing PR, Financial Public Relations and Crisis Management, his work experience has seen him consult for many multi-nationals and national governments, such as the first woman elected President in Africa, H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia.
An alumnus of the Lagos Business School and a renowned facilitator, YBO is the current President of the African Public Relations Association (APRA), the umbrella body for the practice of public 

relations in Africa.

IWA: The world sees Africa as one, but unfortunately going by what is happening on the 

continent, Africa cannot be said to be united. I would like to know in specific terms what your association – the African Public Relations Association (APRA) has done over the years to foster this unity?

YBO: When I first became the Secretary General and then the President of the APRA, the first thing we did was to integrate ourselves into the African union, because until then APRA had no tangible relationship with the African union; we were more or less just talking to one another. We then realised that if we were going to be talking for Africa, we would have to work with the African Union. This we pursued to the extent that the first conference under my watch as Secretary- General was hosted in Addis-Abba as part of the 50th anniversary of the African Union. Since then, we 

have been aspiring to become registered as a consultative arm of the AU, and I must tell you that it’s a long process; moreover, African Union with due respect has its own challenges, there is a lot of bureaucracy, so it has been a long journey for us and now we are at the point where we need to register with a body called ECOSOC which caters for such registration. 

We have actually started the registration to a certain extent. ECOSOC functions as the think-tank of the African Union and it is what they put together that becomes a recommendation to the foreign affairs ministers which is then ratified by the heads of government in Africa. We thought that it was the best place to be, initially we were working with the communications department but because they were not a policy formulating arm of the AU, we had to start again… the process is still on. All our conferences have now been endorsed by the AU and we have had attendance from a very high level – at the Deputy Chairperson’s level. 

We have made presentations to them and we are even proposing that we have an office in the AU complex in Ethiopia. We believe that one of the biggest challenges Africa has is narrative, its reputation and right now it is about war, strife, disease etc., imagine the kind of dent it would have had on our image if the Corona Virus had sprouted from Africa like Ebola. Therefore, it is expedient that as PR professionals we are at the driver’s seat driving the narrative of everything the AU is doing to foster unity amongst member states. As things stand now the visions, aims and objectives of the AU are only known at the government level. 

For instance, in Europe, the impact of the European Union is felt by the average man on the street. That is not the case in Africa, the impression out there is that the AU is only a body of government technocrats and administrators and that impression must change for both the continent and the AU. We have started working closely with the operating arm of the AU known as the African Union commission in this respect and our goal is to positively reshape the narrative by selling “Positive Africa”. We feel that Africa has a story to tell or re-tell, and who best to re-tell that story other than the key story tellers who are in this case – the public relations practitioners.  

We have then given ourselves a mandate as PR practitioners across the continent to equip ourselves by knowing what is going on. Before now, all that we have was to just talk to ourselves, but now we want to, and are really starting to influence our key stakeholders (government, business, NGOs and foreign interests). 

We have also taken steps to put African Public Relations in the main stream of global PR agenda such that our conferences are now attended by the President of the Global Alliance which is the largest body in terms of  communication. In fact, I have been informed that our up-coming conference will also be attended by the President of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) and several other dignitaries from across the globe.

We have been able to push Africa into the mainstream of the global PR agenda and we believe that if we take all of these things collectively along with contributions from various stakeholders in the field of PR, we will become a global force to reckon with, and possess enough juice to drive our campaign effectively. A good example of what I am talking about is the Tokyo Olympics where we should have a clear narrative for Africa globally; to create a situation where we would be able to situate ourselves strategically in these world events and leverage opportunities presented to sell a positive Africa. 

IWA:The recent frosty relations between South Africa and Nigeria has been a PR nightmare for both countries and has resulted in some level of disconnection between 

them, and this is typical of relations between several African countries because certain complexities of the situation are only appreciated at top governmental levels. What is your organization doing as regards embarking on campaigns targeted at the young and people in the streets in Africa to promote integration, unity and better understanding at that level?

YBO: The fact that we are trying to make Africa one market is one of those key points and we believe that if this is put into place, issues like this will be significantly reduce. We strongly believe in the economic integration of Africa; it has been one of our cardinal goals. Africa should be an economic zone which by all standards be a force to be reckon with. There are suppositions that the young South Africans who don’t know the historical ties that binds the countries together, are of the opinion that Nigerians are taking undue advantages of them and the Xenophobia is their response to it.  It is said that the key issues are that they are of the opinion that Nigerians are taking over their businesses, and in some cases, their women, in some other cases the Nigerians are perceived as offering better services at cheaper rates, and of course, not ruling out the issue of shady businesses that some Nigerians engage in whether it is fraudulent practices or dealing in narcotics.

There is a need to understand that in the growth of an economy, these things are inevitable. What we are doing about it is accentuating our campaign on the need for economic integration in Africa, which will see Africa become one market and all varied interests become one. We are also advocating social integration as an effective tool and an integral part of our campaign to foster oneness in Africa which underscores our official slogan, which is “One Africa”.

IWA: There is some skepticism about the success of African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCTA). What do you think about this and what are the things your organization has done or is doing to ensure that the success story not only holds true, but is 

also obvious to these skeptics?

YBO:There is an African proverb which says that “if you want go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together”. It is time for Africa to go together, because its strength doesn’t lie in each market trying to solve its own problem, but in the integration of the continent as a single market. I totally believe in the concept of a ‘United States of Africa’, not in terms of political structure or leadership; I am not saying that one person becomes the president of Africa. I am advocating that we go as a one in our strength which is massive and in my opinion the only way to go. It is what has made Europe strong and definitely what made America strong, because technically, each state in 

America could easily be a country by itself, but they decided to come together to form one country – the United States of America, they have a common market, security, currency, army and purpose. All these make the USA very strong and the superpower that they are today. So I believe that this is the only way Africa can go, we should have some form of economic and political confederation under which we can all act as one because that is where the real strength lies.

Looking at it, the AU has not been as effective as it should be in this respect and consequently, whether by error of commission or omission they have not achieved the lofty dreams and goals set by the founding fathers of the AU – the dreams and visions of the likes of Haile Selassie, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda, just to mention a few, have not been achieved, and for us to achieve these goals, it is imperative for Africa to operate as one. The pertinent question to ask is; what are the fears militating against achieving these goals? The logical explanation is once there is a change of status in life, there is always a fear associated with it. For example, if you are getting married, you will be afraid; if you are getting a new job, you will be afraid; if you are setting up a new business venture, you will be afraid. So I am not surprised that there is some level of apprehension as to working together, but I believe that once we put our hearts into it, we will begin to see the advantages. What this means is that this publication of yours (IWA) can go across 

Africa, the skills you have here you can actually be transferred to Zimbabwe or Zambia. Let me give you an example, look at the United Arab Emirates, there are about seven countries that came together and you can see how strong they have become, some are more prominent than the others, but collectively they are strong. If each one of them had decided to go it on its own, I am not so sure if they would have achieved all that they have. There will be challenges associated with integration and it’s not going to be easy, but I think that is the way to go. 

IWA:Africa has always been blamed for a lot of things it wasn’t responsible for because we do not manage our narrative around certain issues well. So do you think Africa has managed the narrative around the Coronavirus 

well enough to the extent of not getting the blame that isn’t ours and what step is your organization taking to make sure that the narrative is properly managed from the African point of view? 

YBO:The most critical thing we should do regarding the Coronavirus beyond us repudiating the origin as Africa is that we should save our people and this has to do with a lot of enlightenment that and a lot of advocacy around it. My greatest concern would not be avoiding the blame, we are clear where it has come from, and my worry will be the virus containing, managing, and stopping the spread because it is so devastating to the extent that it is stretching the resources and capacity to cope for the most industrialized nations of the world. 

If it were to be unleashed here, it will be more devastating. So what should we do now is to move into the world of enlightenment and advocacy which is what we have urged all our practitioners across the continent to do. It’s not the time to get fixated on the blame game; it is simply the time for all hands to be on deck to help keep all our people safe. So we have to enlighten our people how they can take care of themselves and how they can avoid the virus at any opportunity we have, even in cases of suspected infection, teach them what they should do to curb it. This becomes more significant when you realise that Africa has the least literacy rate across the world. So this thing only needs to get into some places where it is difficult to disseminate information and we would have a huge epidemic on our hands. Our most important task as PR practitioners in this situation should therefore 

be to ensure that we communicate, advocate and give counsel to, not just the people, but also the government. We should make sure that the government, the people and the private sector are doing the right thing and support them. Just last week it was reported that the Nigerian Senate President said there was nowhere in Abuja where people could be quarantined and thatis sad. I hope at the end of the day this thing will not snowball into something that will get out of control, and we will carry the brunt of this whole thing because while the Western world has managed to contain the spread of the virus, we have not done much work towards our own containment strategy; that’s where the problem will be for us if we don’t get our act together.

IWA: We are definitely over-dependent on China as regards 

trade and economic cooperation Iis it not time for us to focus more on becoming more independent in all that we do? 

YBO: For me, it is important that Africa has an industrial policy and if we already have one, it should be targeted at what and where we have comparative advantage. As a continent we still some deficiencies in the area of infrastructure thus we cannot but be dependent on the super powers like China at the moment because we have no choice. It is simple, they are strong and weare weak now, so we need them. As PR practitioners, what we should be talking about now is that there should be as a matter of urgency an industrial policy for Africa which is well articulated and distilled down to address Africa’s needs. For instance, let us assume that a certain number of new vehicles are needed yearly in Africa and there is an African industrial policy in place where a Toyota plant in situated in country A, a Nissan plant in country B, and another plant producing Renault in country C, all located in Africa, then we are looking at it as a total trade or policy concept in which the demand for new vehicles in the West African Sub-region for example, can be taken care of by a plant located in Nigeria, Benin or Ghana. In fact it would mean that Africa is capable of meeting its total yearly demand for new vehicles for all its regions by plants located in these regions which are a big economic plus for Africa as a continent. I think this again brings us back to the issue of re-engineering the AU which is of present more of a political union and needs to be more of an economic one. Consequently, I am hoping that the African Free Trade 

Continental Agreement will help address this and reposition the role of the AU to be seen more along economic lines rather than political.

IWA: You will agree with me that these are long and medium term solutions to the problem and we need to immediately activate the short term ones that will trigger the principle of comparative advantage and at least at the level of producing the food we eat. For instance, are we doing enough to promote the things we are currently producing locally such as local cuisines and apparels?

YBO: I agree with you that as a first step and an integral part of selling Africa, we need to also activate the same narrative at the very basic level of the economy and using your analogy, I would say that as Africans we must as a matter of urgency, build some African brand assets across the board. A few days ago, I saw a video clip which is popular and I am sure you must have seen it, it features somewhere in China that someone was asking for fufu and egusi… and who was talking, – a Chinese man. The truth is, where there is a demand, there is always an opportunity. So we cannot blame the Chinese for institutionalising the Chinese brand of food or restaurants. It is onus on us to build ours. I have only been to china once and I was telling someone the other day that the Chinese food over here in Nigeria is better than the one in China. They have succeeded in commercialising their food because they realised that there is a demand for it and that is what we must also do with our foods, drinks and wears. For instance, if you are from Ondo, the Asun (grilled goat meat) that is served there is so different from the Asun we now have in places like Lagos. The popular Asun we have now is parboiled, they will cook it a bit before grilling it, but for the original Asun, they grill it straight without any par-boiling, so the meat is tough and spicy because they baste or marinate it with raw pepper before grilling. Not many people are able to eat it, except for maybe someone with acquired taste like my late uncle who did not mind and even craves the spicy nature of the original Asun.  For you to understand what I am saying, my uncle is capable of eating Garri and raw red Pepper as dessert while he is waiting for his food to be ready. So, we need some strong African brand assets around these products, and those brand assets are what we got to develop from what we have. The truth is that nature abhors a vacuum, if we don’t meet our basic needs using the African brand assets we have developed, the Chinese or some other persons will come here and meet those demands using their own brand assets. These type of development has taken place with foods such as pounded yam in which you don’t really have to pound yam anymore, you could just pick up Poundo-yam, which is actually pounded yam developed, packaged and branded for our consumption, and there just like that you have your pounded yam on the go to eat; these are the kinds of development and initiatives that we should drive. The pertinent questions to ask ourselves are, – Should there be a fund for small and medium scale enterprises across Africa to fund these initiatives, to make the difference? Should we help skills acquisition or skills development contrary to the situation where many of us are 

just looking for university degrees, and consequently we don’t have enough of quality artisans or technicians or technical knowledge to develop our continent?

IWA: In PR practice we will always ask people what is core character that they need to drive their business. So I ask you what is the most important character trait that is expected of a public relations practitioner?

YBO: I would say the biggest thing is integrity of purpose. Because sooner or later if you fail in that area you have failed in every other thing and it will catch up with you. Some people mix PR with Propaganda. A Yoruba adage says “no matter how far a lie has gone or spread, the truth will always catch up with it.’’ PR is not about spin doctoring, it is about telling a story and that story must be based on truth. Which means in many instances that our clients and principals have not done well, we should own up to it. Integrity of purpose is the bedrock of PR practice. 

Emirates protects and prepares its all wide-body fleet

Dubai, UAE, May 6,  2020: While the world yearns to travel once again, meet and hug loved ones, seek new adventures and close those business deals, Emirates is busy protecting and readying the world’s largest all wide-body fleet to take to the skies. This could have proved daunting, but Emirates Engineering, a division of the airline and one of the world’s most technologically advanced aircraft maintenance facilities, has it all covered – literally! Ahmed Safa, Emirates’ Divisional Senior Vice President Engineering said: “Emirates moves to a different drumbeat – one where the highest standards are absolutely fundamental to our entire organisational rhythm. Everything we do ladders up to ensuring the best customer experience and people feeling safe and reassured while flying with us. “That philosophy also extends to our Engineering team and how we maintain and secure our multibillion dollar fleet with the world’s largest number of Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s. We don’t just cover our engines, but have a comprehensive aircraft parking and reactivation programme that strictly follows manufacturers’ guidelines and maintenance manuals, and we have enhanced standards and protocols of our own. “We also have the enviable challenge of a full wide-body fleet – 115 A380s and 155 B777s – and the most sophisticated systems and avionics in the industry. While a narrow-body aircraft only requires around 3-4 employees working for eight hours or so to cover it, our aircraft need 4-6 employees working a 12-hour shift. And taking extra precautions while maintaining social distancing adds its own interesting twist to the proceedings.” Of the 270 aircraft in its fleet, Emirates had initially parked and wrapped up 218 aircraft – 117 at Dubai World Central and 101 at Dubai International airport – that involved more than 15,500 man-hours of work. Now around 75 Emirates aircraft, both passenger and freighter, are crisscrossing the planet carrying people on repatriation and cargo on essential missions. These continue to be maintained as per standard operating procedures. Some aircraft are undergoing scheduled heavy maintenance in Emirates Engineering’s hangars. Routinely, Emirates covers all aircraft that are taken out of operations for more than 48 hours. Much before the pandemic, Emirates has had to cover a significant part of its fleet during the runway closures at Dubai International airport, and even during the 2010 volcanic ash cloud disaster that partially grounded the fleet. All apertures and openings through which environmental factors – sand, dirt, water, birds and insects – can find their way inside an aircraft are wrapped up and made watertight. That includes engines and air data probes – such as pitot, static, temperature, angle of attack sensors – engine intakes and exhausts, and APU intakes and exhausts. The interiors – whether cabin monuments, seats or inflight entertainment equipment – are also protected from the elements. Potable water systems and aircraft fuel tanks are preserved, and engine and APU systems are protected. The process also involves the greasing, cleaning and preservation of landing gear and flight control systems. The team turns off all cockpit switches, disconnects batteries, and installs control lever locks and window blinds. After concluding the protection and preservation works, the team completes periodic checks at 7-, 15- and 30-day intervals across the fleet. These can include simple walk-around inspections to ensure all covers are in place, and there are no visible damages or external leaks. Complex checks include removing the covers and reactivating aircraft systems, idling engines and testing engine bleed air and flight control systems. 

Emirates puts customers first in COVID-19 waiver policies

•Simplifies waivers and refunds policy with one unified approach worldwide
 •   Eases concerns about pre-booked summer travel by extending waiver policy to tickets issued before 31 May 2020, for travel before 31 August 2020 

•  Offers three options: Keep your ticket for 760 days; exchange ticket for travel vouchers valid for up to 2 years; full refunds on unused vouchers or ticket Putting customers first, Emirates has updated its COVID-19 travel waiver policies into one simplified approach for rebooking and refunds on tickets issued in all its global markets.

Adnan Kazim, Emirates’ Chief Commercial Officer said: “The travel and airline industry have complicated rulebooks for how fares, re-bookings or refunds are applied, which also differ depending on market regulation. We understand that explaining and unravelling all of that is confusing and frustrating for customers. The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented for everyone, and we’d like to thank our customers and trade partners for their patience, understanding and support as we worked through this period to ensure our policies are not only customer-friendly but also in line with regulatory requirements.

“We sincerely hope that our customers will choose to rebook and fly with us again at a later time, and that is why we’re offering up to two years validity on their current tickets, or travel vouchers which can be redeemed for any Emirates product or service. Any fees for making a change to the tickets will be waived for tickets issued till 31 May 2020 for travel up to 31 August 2020. However, if they would still like to opt for a refund, we will process that. We would just like to seek our customers’ understanding that refunds will take time as we have a significant backlog to manage.”

Emirates is offering three options to its customers affected by flight cancellations and travel restrictions: 1 – Keep your ticket: all Emirates tickets booked before 31 May for travel up to 31 August will be automatically extended for 760 days. Customers holding such tickets can be assured their tickets will be honoured, and they can rebook when they decide to travel. 
Whenever they are ready to travel again, within two years from the day their ticket was originally issued, they simply need to contact Emirates or their travel agents to reschedule their flight. Their ticket will be accepted for any flight to the same Emirates destination or to another city within the same Emirates region with no fees for changes. Those who wish to rebook their ticket to travel to another region can also do so – Emirates will not charge reissuance fees, only any applicable fare difference.

2 – Request a travel voucher: Travel vouchers are valid for one year from date the voucher was issued, and can be extended for a second year. The voucher can be used for any Emirates product or service, which means customers can use it to offset charges for flights to any destination in any cabin class, or other services. No change fees apply to this voucher, so customers will have more flexibility to reschedule when they are ready to travel again. 

3 – Refunds: Customers who have opted to keep their ticket or opted for a travel voucher can still apply for a refund, if they are unable to travel. There will be no refund penalties. Emirates has also made it easy for customers to request these options online through a simple form. 

For more information, or to apply for any of the above options, customers can visit emirates.com. Customers who have booked through their travel agents should contact their agents for assistance – the same waiver policies will apply. 

Best Regards

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It’s Sustainable When There Is a Buy-In

I am one of those people who is very sentimental about the beginning and end of every year. Therefore, I started off the year 2020, with a lot of excitement, and as usual, not minding those around me who never see anything to be excited about at the beginning of the year.
However, just like that, my exciting start to this year was dampened as soon as I realized that I was right smack in the year Nigeria was meant to have become one of the 20 largest economies in the world and establish itself as a significant player in the global economic landscape as well as in the political arena, and though we had a very good chance of achieving this very laudable vision, we failed to.
Nigeria’s Vision 2020, which was eventually launched in 2009 during the administration of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, had its foundation laid during the administration of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo, so there was ample time for proper planning and execution but just as we had done with a lot of other great developmental initiatives, we bungled the rare opportunity of achieving vision 2020.
Like it is the case with most governments in Africa, apart from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), that is being driven by the United Nations, it is said that the incumbent government of Nigeria under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, has already started plans for vision 2030. I know there is popular saying that those who do not plan are planning to fail, thus we should always plan, but in my opinion, Africa’s problem or failure as regards development is not in the lack of planning, but it is essentially in the lack of getting the proper ‘buy-in’ from all and sundry. Over the years most African governments have developed very great developmental initiatives and plans, but these plans keep failing because in my opinion adequate consideration is not given to getting proper ‘buy-in’, from all the key stakeholders.
A good example can be seen in Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs), in Nigeria that was supposed to have been the key stakeholders in the implementation of the Vision 2020, and were expected to run with the vision just because they are organs of government. However, going by the way things eventually panned out, it was obvious that the MDAs didn’t really buy into and owned the vision. Private Organizations in Africa seem to understand how this works better than the Public Organizations in Africa, which is why they often go out of their way to ensure that all members of staff buy into the vision and mission of the organization. They sometimes even go on what they call team bonding retreats to ensure that everyone buys-in, support and own the vision and mission of the organization.
Growing up, in my local dialect “Yoruba”, in the western part of Nigeria, there was a joke peddled around the official title – ‘foreman’; essentially, it was humorously said that the foreman was just being humored, that no one man can really do the job of ‘four-men’. The essence of this joke, in my opinion, was to encourage leaders to be good team players as they will always need their followers or subordinates to successfully carry out the task laid before them.
The year 2020, has undoubtedly started on a very exasperating note for most people the world over as the Corona Virus or COVID – 19 as it is also called, is currently ravaging the world and has dealt a major blow on both the social and economic essence of the world. My take on the pandemic is that it has come like several other ones before it, which came and left, the Corona Virus pandemic will soon go, but it should serve as a reality check for the world, it would significantly help most people to start appreciating how fragile and insubstantial the world’s system and structures are, at the end of the day. The Corona Virus has shown us that there are really no superpowers and that nothing on earth is foolproof.
This is our first edition for the year 2020, so I wish you a ‘Happy New Year’! As you know, Women are celebrated annually the world over in March, thus as it has become our custom, we are celebrating, yet another African Woman of great repute on the cover page of this edition of IWA, which is the March to May 2020 edition. Please join us to celebrate Amina Jane Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, a strong promoter of a sustainable world. There are several other very interesting articles for your reading pleasure in the edition. Enjoy!

THE ACTIVITIES OF THE APAPA AREA COMMAND IN THE FIRST QUARTER OF 2020.

Gentlemen and ladies of the press,

  1. The year 2020 is surrounded with lots of challenges globally. Nigeria is not isolated from these challenges as critical sectors of the economy are adversely affected.
  2. However, for us in the Nigeria Customs Service, and in particular, the Apapa Area Command we remain resolute at ensuring that we collect the much needed revenue for the Federal Government and also ensure the safety and well being of the citizenry through curtailing smuggling to its barest minimum while facilitating legitimate import and export trades.
  3. Revenue: – At the height of these challenges, the Apapa Area Command was able to beat its records of the past two years i.e. 2018 and 2019 respectively by a huge margin. The break down of revenues collected is presented in the table As follows;

4. While the Command collected 81.748 billion naira in the first quarter of 2018, in the corresponding period of 2019 the Command recorded an appreciable increase in revenue to 94.717 billion naira. Interestingly, in the first quarter of 2020 the Command collected a huge sum of 110.204 billion naira indicating an appreciable increase of over 15.4 billion naira when compared to the corresponding period of 2019. This huge increase in revenue collection was a product of so many factors including strict application of import guidelines, increased level of compliance by stakeholders and our openness to address all complaints from the part of importers promptly amongst other measures

5. Accordingly, the CAC wish to use this medium to remind our esteemed stakeholders that in line with the Presidential directives, the Apapa Port remains open and our officers are on ground discharging their functions of collecting revenue and securing the nation sea ports against influx of prohibited goods. He further calls on importers to use this opportunity and evacuate their consignments before normal activities resumes.

6. Anti-Smuggling: – Similarly, the Command has recorded an appreciable increase in its anti-smuggling drive leading to the seizure of 80 containers and 4 vehicles. All the seized items contravened some of the provisions of extant laws as enshrined in the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) CAP C45 LFN, 2004 as amended. The number of first quarter seizures in the Command almost equal the entire seizures of 2019 in terms of Duty Paid Value which stood at 12.5 billion naira.

7. Items seized in the first quarter includes; Rice, Used Clothes, Unregistered Drugs and Vegetable oil. Other seized items include one exotic Rolls Royce car that was valued at over one hundred million naira. The Combined Duty Paid Value (DPV) of these items stood at about 12 billion naira.

8. Export: – The Export Unit recorded another boost in the Command. From a total of 51,601 metric tonnes of export in first quarter of 2019, it increased to 183,578 metric tonnes in corresponding period of 2020. Furthermore, the Free on Board (FOB) value for the export in first quarter 2019 was five million, two hundred and two thousand five hundred and sixty-seven ($ 5,202,567.00) US Dollars which was equivalent to one billion, five hundred and ninety-one million, nine hundred and eighty-five thousand five hundred and two naira (#1,591,986,502.00), the value grew to seventy two million four hundred and forty two thousand, three hundred and ninety four ($72,442,394.00) US Dollars which is equivalent to twenty two billion, one hundred and sixty seven million, three hundred and seventy two thousand five hundred and sixty- four (# 22,167,372,564.00) naira only. This boost in exports was notable in Agriculture, Mineral Resources and Steel Bars among others.

9. To this end, the CAC Comptroller Mohammed Abba-Kura wishes to once more reiterate the resolve of the Service and the Apapa Area Command in particular to serving our esteemed stakeholders by way of discharging our duties with utmost diligence while calling on other stakeholders in the clearance chain to play their respective roles to move this nation forward especially at this trying times. He prays that the world overcomes the problem of COVID-19 soonest.
Thank you all and God Bless!


NKEIRUKA NWALA
Deputy Superintendent of Customs Public Relations Officer
For; CAC Apapa Command

PRESS STATEMENT

Q1: Onne Customs Collects ₦22.9B Revenue …makes ₦215M Seizures in 7 Containers

The Nigeria Customs Service, Area II Command OnnePort, has made a total revenue collection of ₦22,950,780,163.43K between January and March 2020 with seizures of seven containers worth total Duty Paid Value (DPV) of ₦215,387,201.18

On export, the Command recorded 1,053,531 metric tonnes with Free on Board(FOB) value of $87,136,233.66 (USD) and total Nigeria Export Supervision Scheme (NESS) value of ₦132,399,525.56respectively, in the first quarter of 2020.

Customs Area Controller of the Command, Aliyu Galadima Saidu who gave a breakdown of the revenue figures, seizures and export statistics, revealed that thesum of ₦7,651,099,364.62K was generated in January; ₦7,589,349,555.61K in February and ₦7,701,331,243.20K in March 2020.

In the same vein, the 7 seizures of containers comprised 1,225 bales of used clothing, 35 sacks of used shoes, 86bales of used hand bags and other the miscellaneous goods such as foreign detergent, lightings, foreign parboiled rice, perfume, body spray and others, all valued at ₦215,387,201.18

The above seized items, according to Saidu, were brought into the country in contravention of the Customs and Excise Management Act and extant import prohibition list.

For the NESS Fee which is a statutory payment to the Federal Government on all legitimate goods exported from the country, 377,985 metric tonnes were processed through the port in January; 455,987 metric tonnes in February and 219,559 metric tonnes in March.

The Area Controller thanked officers and men of the command for their resilience, commitment and diligence to work in the face of Corona virus pandemic, while urging them to keep safe and continually be uncompromising.

“I want to commend our officers and port users for keeping the tempo of activities going in Onne port without compromising basic rules of hand washing, usage of sanitizers and strict maintenance of the social distancing rules.

“Let us continue to be health and safety conscious this period and beyond, while shunning any attempts at making us compromise on our duties of revenue collection, trade facilitation and suppression of smuggling

“Our stakeholders are advised to utilise all Customs modernisation options available to them to reduce human contacts as much as possible while conducting businesses in the ports.

“The Controller General of Customs is not unaware of our efforts to serve the country and maintain full presence at our duty posts, as directed, this period. I urge you all to keep it up.

“Like I have always said, compliance is very vital to trade facilitation. All importers and agents are once again enjoined to be compliant by making sincere and accurate declarations, avoid concealment, under value and smuggling under any guise.

“Violations will be met with seizures and arrests as we will not hesitate to invoke relevant sections of CEMA Cap C45 of LFN 2004 as amended to apply lawful sanctions against defaulters, Saidu said.

### The End ###

Ifeoma Onuigbo
Customs Public Relations Officer 
Area II Command, Onne Port

How Delta is levelling the skies for women in aviation

In an industry that can be male-dominated, Delta women are flying high thanks to a culture of equity, diversity and inclusion that is breaking down gender barriers.

​And the airline’s effort to attract and retain women into airline careers is being recognized across the industry. Last year, Deltaagain achieved 100 percent pay parity for employees in frontline jobs and was awarded a “Best Workplace for Women” by Great Place To Work® and Fortune for the third year in a row – the only airline on the list. 

Across the business, women have their voices heard. Delta’s SHE Business Resource Group serves as a place for employees of all genders to engage in conversations about gender in the workplace. SHE also has an international branch for employees in the Europe, Middle East, Africa, India region, launched in 2019. Meanwhile, Delta also empowers and prioritizes women-owned businesses throughout its supply chain with a robust 20 year supplier diversity program.

Removing barriers

Gender is no obstacle when it comes to any role at Delta – from loading bags and predicting weather, to flying planes and carrying out vital maintenance. Delta women work in every division across the airline, thanks to a fair, equal and diverse playing ground for candidates in every position. Delta constantly strives to dismantle barriers to career entry and advancement, and currently has 19 female leaders in officer positions. 

Aircraft maintenance technician, Britany Abney works on some of Delta’s newest aircraft, like the A350 and A330-900neos and believes being a woman is irrelevant when it comes to the job. “I’ve the same capabilities as anyone, regardless of gender,” she says. “The most challenging part is learning all the different components; you need a good eye for detail and a commitment to doing your best every day.” 

Delta is leading the industry when it comes to using cutting-edge technology to predict weather pattern and of its in-house team of 26 meteorologists, six are women. Delta’s Lead Meteorologist, Heather Heitzman, says a love of the job overshadows gender. Her advice to young women interested in the field? “Follow your passion and curiosity, no matter what. You’ll find yourself surrounded by people just as passionate as you are about what you do.”

For Ramp Agent, Karen Borali, the biggest misconception about the job is that it is not for women. “We have the same responsibilities as the guys, working in all weathers, handling thousands of bags, mail and freight every day and if a plane needs de-icing, we take our turn,” she says. “Man or woman, we look out for each other, working to a tight set of procedures so Delta customers and co-workers go home safe.”

Inspiring the future

Delta’s pipeline strategy focuses on farming for the next generation – addressing underrepresentation by growing and inspiring talent, nurturing individuals and removing economic, racial and gender barriers.

The airline’s annual WING – Women Inspiring our Next Generation – Flight originated in 2015 as an effort to diversify the industry and expose girls to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers at a young age. WING flights are planned and orchestrated exclusively by women – including pilots, ramp agents, gate agents boarding and women in the tower guiding the aircraft on its way out. More than 600 students have participated in WING flights over five years.

First officer Aluel Bol says it’s vital to expose girls to careers in aviation at a young age. Children see the world without limitations or boundaries,” she says. “Introducing young girls to the industry sparks interest before they’ve formed preconceptions of ‘male only’ roles.” 

Delta is on par with the aviation industry with approximately 5% pilots who are women. In the past four years, 7.4% of Delta’s new hire pilots have been women. 

“Becoming a pilot might seem daunting, but we’re working on that,” Bol says. “Women on the flight deck can be few and far between but the WING Flight is one way we are working to drive those numbers upward – the sky’s really not the limit.”

Apapa Area Customs Command Hits Highest Revenue Figure in the History of the Port – Says Comptroller Mohammed Abba-Kura.

by Damilola Hammed

A landmark achievement was recorded by the Nigeria Customs Service, Apapa Area Command, with N413 billion generated in 2019, the highest in the history of the command’s operations. This figure is N41 billion above the projected N372 billion revenue target for the past year.
The Command’s Area Controller, Comptroller Mohammed Abba-Kura had told a news conference on 20th of December 2019 of the feat and the surpassing of the target even though the year had not ended.
As usual, Comptroller Abba-Kura had conducted journalists round the seizures made by the command in the outgoing year worth N12 billion.

A no-holds-barred interview by Inside Watch Africa (IWA) with the Area Controller is more revealing, and the following are excerpts of the one-on-one chat:

IWA: Nigeria is predominantly an importing and exporting nation, yet some people say doing import and export business in Nigeria seems to be problematic. Sir, what is your take on this?

Comptroller Abba-Kura: Let me start by saying that I do not agree with the assertion that import and export business is a problematic business in Nigeria. However, whatever business endeavour anyone desires to be involved in, it is compulsory that one should have very good knowledge of the laws that govern the business. Regrettably, I have over the years observed that most people, who go into import and export in Nigeria, go into it ignorantly. My advice for anyone that desires to go on this line of business either in Nigeria or in any other country for that matter, as it would be required in any other venture, is for such a person to first make enquiries and get sufficient information about the rules and regulations that guide whatever he or she wants to either import or export before jumping into the venture. It is only by so doing and strictly adhering to the rules and regulations that the person would be able to escape what I call “avoidable problems’’ in the course of importing into or exporting out of Nigeria.

IWA: Still on advice, what in your opinion should one do to become a successful customs officer? What are the salient things to be done?

Comptroller Abba-Kura: The customs job is essentially a very energetic one thus a Customs officer is generally expected to be up and doing and must possess the ability to face diverse challenges. One is constantly confronted with such challenges because of the nature of the job. The essence and practices of the Customs job is entrenched in global statues, treaties and laws, thus in order to be successful in primary duties of a Customs officer which entails trade facilitation, revenue collection and smuggling prevention, he or she should be willing to go the extra mile and get acquainted with all the relevant global statues, treaties and laws. Fortunately, the Nigeria Customs Service traditionally gives opportunity to its officers on regular basis to undergo on-the-job and off-the job trainings and courses in order to be properly equipped for the job as long as the officer is ready and willing to learn.

IWA: You are one of those officers who have had the privilege of undergoing many courses within and outside the country. Which of the courses do you consider the best and most rewarding?

Comptroller Abba-Kura: It is true that I have undergone a lot of courses within and outside the country on various topics and I must confess that I am really grateful to God for the opportunities that the Service had given me over the years in this regard. To answer your question directly, the course I have enjoyed most are the intelligence courses I attended at different times when I was in the Customs Intelligent Unit. The courses had exposed me to so many very instructive things about the job and about life generally. There was a particular course on risk assessment and management I attended for over a year which I consider all-encompassing as far as the Customs job is concerned. We did valuation, classification and also did non-intrusive examination. I must confess that even now as an Area Controller, I still draw from the knowledge and experiences I acquired on those intelligence courses.

IWA: Apapa port means different things to different people; to some it is just Africa’s premier port. Sir, as the Customs Area Controller of this port, how would you describe Apapa port?

Comptroller Abba-Kura: Apapa port is not just Africa’s premier port in the Maritime industry in Nigeria, Apapa port is the number one port and so much is expected of it particularly in the area of revenue collection, suppression of smuggling, and in many other areas. I must give kudos to my predecessors who had over the years raised the bar of excellent service delivery at this port.   However, since I became the Area Controller, we have continued to put structures in place that have seen us raising the bar much higher than my predecessors in all area of our performance. So far in the history of this port, we have generated the highest revenues and the figures are there for everyone to see. Understanding and realizing the pivotal role that human capital will play in our quest for success, we decided to take capacity building in this command very seriously. I am glad to inform you that we have finished the first phase of the training we organized in-house in the first week of November 2019 where we trained 350 officers.

IWA: This training that you mentioned organizing in-house for your officers sounds interesting, can you please tell us more about it?

Comptroller Abba-Kura: We took them in batches and the courses taught are as follow: classification, valuation, enforcement, examination, non-intrusive examination, risk management, fast-tracking, administration, Customs in the 21st Century, among others.

IWA: What is Customs in the 21st Century all about?

Comptroller Abba-Kura: The 21st Century Customs idea was introduced by the World Customs Organization (WCO) to essentially teach officers and get them ready for the eminent disruption that is already happening in the way things will be done in the Maritime industry globally, going forward.  As a responsible leader, I consider it pertinent to keep my officers abreast of the global goings-on in our industry because if the officers don’t know where we are and where we are going, they will lag behind. Let me also inform you that this capacity building training is not only for customs officers, we are extending the training to all the critical stakeholders in the industry so that all of us will be on the same page.

IWA: As customary with us in IWA, in your last word in this interview, you are allowed to and can say whatsoever you desire to say that we did not ask in the course of the interview?

Comptroller Abba-Kura: Going by the nature of my job, I am not expected to work on or base my judgement on rumours, hearsay or suppositions. So I will greatly appreciate it when people want to come forward with their complaints and do so with concrete evidence. I do not consider it fair for anyone to be judged or punished by mere rumours or suppositions. 

Having said this, my last word to the public will be, whatever the dealings they intend to have with the Customs Service, they should please try to always back it up with tenable and concrete evidence.