The year 2020 and its concomitant challenges and upheavals will go down in the annals of the nation as one crisis to too many as the coronavirus has unimaginably negatively impacted our world, our country and businesses with incalculable fatalities in terms of human lives and colossal economic losses.
Nevertheless, it is for this reason that I have continued to ponder on the theme of 2020 International Customs Day (ICD) celebration with the theme, “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.
Inside Watch Africa (IWA) was able to pin down the Kirikiri Lighter Terminal (KLT) Area Command, Comptroller Nike Oladunni, for her reactions and views on the theme of this year’s celebration. Her responses are as instructive as they are insightful as she let us into the activities of Customs Area Command at Kirikiri, Lagos.
Oladunni said:“ In my opinion the three main points we are examining in the theme of the International Customs Day, 2020: people, prosperity and the planet, are all encompassing because if we truly focus on and we are able to foster sustainability for the people, then we would have inadvertently fostered sustainability for prosperity and the planet at large.
Again, looking at the theme, you will agree with me that catering to the wellbeing of the people is at the heart of what we do in Customs globally. Traditionally this theme must have been selected sometime early last year shortly after the celebration of last year’s edition of the World Customs Day which is usually celebrated on the 26th of February annually and it is as if the world Customs Organization knew that the Coronavirus will ravage the world this year as we are experiencing.
I have said this over and over again that to build a nation you must first build the people and to build the world, you must first build a nation. The way to go is to create an environment conducive enough for people to trade and prosper.
As a Customs Officer, I am fully aware that all these things are directly linked and that it is only healthy people that are truly prosperous. Since the prosperity of the nation is directly linked to the prosperity of the people, I will not stop stressing the fact that importers and Customs clearing agents need to be compliant.
Their compliance with import and export regulations is pivotal to the success of the whole value-chain of any country’s maritime industry.
For instance, when importers genuinely declare what they actually imported, it makes it a lot easier for us on our part to facilitate the smooth clearing of the cargoes out of the ports.
Cargo clearance is essentially aligned to international best practices, thus compliant traders generally save themselves from unnecessary delays that may be occasioned by incessant queries at different stages in the clearing process because what was physically found after physical examination was different from what was declared.
Apart from the negative impact false declaration can have on the economy of a nation in the short and long run, the people can’t afford to allow and should not allow anything they are not sure of into their country as this may expose the country to some security or health threats and danger.
Nigeria is essentially an importing nation and since on a very regular basis new people are always delving into the import and export business, we cannot stop talking about the need for importers and their agents to be regulations-complaint for their own good in the long run and for the good of the nation in both the short and long run.
In this Area Command, we constantly engage with all stakeholders, we deliberately allow them raise their concerns and we are always eager to attend to the legitimate concerns as promptly as possible.
As regards the Covid-19 pandemic, in this area command, we have right from the start continued to strictly adhere to all the laid down guidelines of the government. We have wash hand basins strategically placed in and around the area command. We are strictly observing physical distancing and I ensure that all my officers and men as well as everyone that has any business to do in this area command always wear face masks.
We have also drastically reduced human interfacing or contacts in the area command. People don’t really need to see anybody one-on-one to do their jobs as most of the things we do are online. However, if there is a query and a serious need to see any officer, we have advised traders to put their request in writing and they will be promptly attended to.
The only time more people come together is during the physical examination and I have instructed that physical distancing should be strictly observed, insisting that people do not have to cluster. Let me conclude by saying that we are so thankful to God that all the strategies we have deployed are working as we have not recorded a single incident of the Covid-19 in this area command and we shall not record by God’s saving grace.”