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 Kiri-kiri Lighter Terminal (KLT) Area Command in this challenging period, Comptroller Nike Oladunni, the Customs Area Controller of the Command has these to say:
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 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 Corona Virus will ravaging the world this year, as it is now.
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 to themselves, 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 to 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 clearance of the cargoes out of the ports. Cargo clearance is essentially aligned to international best practice, 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, a people can’t afford and should not allow anything they are not sure of into their country, as this may expose the county to security or and health danger.
Nigeria, is essentially and 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 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. I have ensured that all my officers and men as well as everyone that has any business to do in in this area command always wear face masks.
We have also drastically reduced human interfacing in the area command. People don’t really need to see anybody one on one to do their jobs, most of the things we do we do online. However, if there is a query and a serious need to see and officers, we have advised traders to put their request in writing and they will be promptly attended to. The only time now, more people are together is during the physical examination and I have instructed that physical distancing should be strictly observed, people to have to cluster together. 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.