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Fitting Into Apapa Port’s Big Shoes: I’m up to the task and came prepared for the job – Comptroller AB Mohammed

Comptroller Auwal Baba Mohammed, newly deployed Customs Area Controller of Apapa Port has reassured of surpassing the N1trillion annual revenue collection mark, suppressing smuggling and promoting trade.

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Comptroller Auwal Mohammed

Newly appointed Area Controller, Comptroller Auwal Mohammed stated that his first assignment will be ensure he sustains the revenue drive and other laudable activities at the Command.

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Not oblivious of the sensitive impact of the Nigeria Customs Service(NCS) in non oil revenue collection, Mohammed has promised not to disappoint Nigeria.

Apapa Command revenue for 2022 which is about one third of the over N3trillion total collection of the service last year was an unprecedented mark.

In the non oil revenue collection ranking, NCS is obviously next to the Federal Inland Revenue Service that hit N10trillion last year

While taking over, Auwal Mohammed said “My first assignment will be to make sure that I sustain the tempo at the Command and strive to introduce due process. This due process means we have to do our work dutifully and with regard for professionalism.”

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While acknowledging that replacing Comptroller Malanta at Apapa is a huge feat, he posited that he is prepared for the huge onus of leading the nation’s busiest port.

“I’m appealing to you not to relent on your efforts and I’m also appealing to you to grant me the same support you granted my predecessor and the sky will not be our limit, but our starting point,” he remarked.

The new Area Controller also encouraged port users to stick to proper declaration in order to ensure trade facilitation at the Command.

At an elaborate handing over service in Apapa on Friday, the new Area Controller, Auwal Mohammed noted that he was aware the shoes of ACG Malanta is quite big, but he is prepared for the job.

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“We know how far we have gone at this Area Command, we know how the service and the Federal Government is relying on the officers of this command to generate and collect revenue and also carryout effective anti-smuggling.

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“I know the shoes I am stepping into, but I want to assure you that I am prepared for the job” he assured

Speaking further, Compt Auwal said “I am coming from Onne Port, though smaller, but we have done our best there, and here, we are going to double and triple what we did at my last area Command

“My first assignment is to make sure that I sustain the tempo, that is why in addition to remodelling of the command, we are going to introduce due process, this means doing your work without any blemish.

“I am going to corporate with you, encourage and legitimately support you. I am appealing to you not to relent on your efforts but to double the total support have to my senior colleague”

“I am inheriting a well structured Area Command, from what I have seen, all I can do is improve on it.

“I want to urge the releasing and examination officers that, no package or containers should leave Apapa port without hundred percent examination”

“In making decisions on whether cargoes should be suspect or non suspect, the officers must exhibit all sense of responsibility, so that you don’t release an uncustom cargo” he warned

A stickler for due process and honesty, Mohammed insists at all times that all containers exiting ports under his watch undergo maximum examination.

His predecessor in Apapa attested to this about him at a handing over ceremony held recently in Lagos.

He has a trail of excellence in service , spurring his surbinates to greater results and making the NCS proud wherever he worked.

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JournalNG veered into his two recent areas of assignment in Area One in Portharcout Port and Area Two in Onne Port, both in Rivers State.

He lefts marks of increases in revenue collection and uncompromising fight against smuggling plus indelible positive impacts on the national economy through trade facilitation.

ANTECEDENT OF POSITIVE RESULTS

While serving at Area One Command, Mohammed activated anti smuggling policing inward and outward of the country foiled an attempt by two foreign nationals to smuggle United States dollars out of Nigeria without making declaration of the money.

Two Lebanese who tried to smuggle out the sum of $890,000 through the Portharcourt international Airport were busted

The two men were arrested as they were about to board a flight at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa in Rivers state in what appeared to be a major breakthrough for the command’s fight against currency smuggling.

Comptroller Auwal Mohammed had disclosed that the two Lebanese men were about. to board a charted flight marked -VISTA-JET-9H-VFF to Lebanon on July 1,2020 at exactly 12:30 hours when his officers at the luggage hall suspected them during an outward screening of passengers, and decided to conduct a thorough search on their belongings

He said upon thorough scrutiny of their hand luggage, the sum of $890,000 (Eight Hundred and Ninety thousand Dollars) was found in their possession.

Mohammed named the suspects as Dina Jihad Khalil with passport number LR1592975 and in possession of $670,000. and Chammsedoine Waell Mohammed with passport number LR. 03566598 and in possession of $220,000 all amounting to $890,000

The Comptroller Mohammed said the two suspects were immediately placed on arrest and brought down to the Command headquarters and their statements taken before the physical counting of the currency in their presence.

The suspects who were handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have been convicted after going through prosecution and trial before the court.

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At Onne Port, the story was not different. It was a blend of diligent revenue collection, enforcement with zero tolerance for illegalities with robust interactions with members of the port community to achieve government objectives.

According to reports, Mohammed had announced the Area two command’s revenue generation in 2022 which surpassed the 2021 collection by N53.3 billion, adding that N188.7 billion was generated as revenue in 2021.

“I attribute the collection of N242 billion as total revenue for 2022 to regular stakeholders’ engagement, increased compliance level of the port users, and non-compromise on the part of officers,” he said.

“The command engaged its stakeholders regularly on the need to abide by extant laws guiding import and export.

“Periodic meetings with importers, exporters, terminal operators, licensed customs agents and freight forwarders afforded the command the opportunity of regularly enlightening them on the import and export prohibitions.”

On anti-smuggling initiatives, he said the command made some seizures in 2022, adding that the feat was achieved through meticulous physical examination of cargoes.

“Antics by smugglers to conceal prohibited items by hiding them at the end of containers with the hope that customs officers won’t get to the end during examination failed as all such concealments were uncovered and seized,” he said.

“The seizures made comprise of machetes brought into the country without end-user certificate, military wears, vegetable oil, whisky, soap, and used clothings.

“Other seizures included used tyres, foreign parboiled rice, tomato paste, used vehicle parts, and other items either classified as prohibited or for which duty payments were being evaded.”

He added that the command recorded an increase in export worth N2.71 billion under the Nigeria Export Supervision Scheme (NESS), which is over 300 percent higher when compared with N881.01 million recorded in 2021.

Joshua Okoria

Joshua Okoria is a Lagos based multi-skilled journalist covering the maritime industry. His ICT and graphic design skills makes him a resourceful person in any modern newsroom. He read mass communication at the Olabisi Onabanjo University and has sharpened his knowledge in media practice from several other short courses. 07030562600, hubitokoria@gmail.com

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