…As Comptroller Wale Adeniyi stresses Customs determination to champion Stress-free trips!***
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) Command has urged Nigerians, particularly those making regular international flights to utilize the Eid-el Kabir season, towards imbibing the Spirit of Sacrifices and Obedience and Compliance.
The MMIA Customs Command Controller, Wale Adeniyi made the statement on Monday in his Eid -el Kabir message, stressing his determination to ensure that Customs champions the entrenchment of stress-free trips by Nigerians, on international flights.
“One of the messages I would want to send to stakeholders at this hour, is for them to imbibe the spirit of ‘Eid Kabir’”, Comptroller Adeniyi said, noting that a thorough enjoyment of the ‘Eid al Adha’ Season, must begin with a strong understanding and determination, for full compliance to rules and regulations governing international travels.
“The spirit basically, is on making Sacrifices and Obedience and Compliance. There are laws and regulations that govern international travels – in terms of the kind of goods that they bring back into the country. Some of them are as simple as in terms of the size of your luggage.
“We have things that are of absolute prohibition. So, the issue about that, for me about this period, in respect of the message to the people, is that they should avoid bringing those goods that are banned into the country; and that, they should also avoid taking out export prohibitions like endangered species of animals, hard currency and things like that.
“It is absolutely very important that we emphasize the issue of money laundering: there is no government that says citizens cannot take money out of the country or, bring money into the country, irrespective of the amount. What the rule says is that once it is above a particular threshold, it must be declared.
“We want to encourage people who travel outside the country to go and make some business; we want to encourage those who already have their businesses abroad, and they want to repatriate cash back home. There are so many electronic options for them to do this across the borders; but if they choose to do it by cash, they should obey the rules.
“My message to them is to obey the extant rules, by declaring such things when they come to the airport. There is a very strict penalty, if not declared; those money could be confiscated and of course, just as a lot of endangered species that international laws and convention try to protect must be protected; for instance, elephant tusk, pangolin, some plants and animals that have been banned, those are the kind of things we should not travel with, out of the country.
“So basically, this will be my advice, we desire to have customer friendly airport, stress free check in, outward and inward clearance so when people comply with the laws, it would be stress free for them. When people buy merchandize in their baggage, if you travel and you bring in things that are considered to be in commercial quantities, the CG of Customs has made it possible now that such goods can be assessed right there at the airport; duties can be assessed; you will know how much you pay and there are banks there, working 24/7 where you can make your duty payment almost immediately; and those goods will be released immediately for you.
“So if you travel, buy only those things, that are not in commercial quantities but if you are bringing them in commercial quantities , be ready for assessment of baggage and payment of duty at the airport, this will be my message”, he also indicated.
Asked to evaluate the general level of compliance by Nigerians at the MMIA, the former Customs national image-maker and Spokesman, who has remained a great media delight said he would rather want the Government agencies providing services to those utilizing the airport to first focus on how to make travelers trips stress-free first, before assessing their level of compliance to extant rules.
“The airport is a very big Community and there are lots government agencies: agencies and organizations that are also not governmental; that are stakeholders, and of course passengers, you can even begin to segregate those who go on vacation, tourism, medical reasons, religious purposes, and they are those who do international travels, regional travels and commercial travels.
“So we have different or several layers of stakeholders in the airport and I used the first one week to kick-start series of engagement with them; and not to forget that, there are also some customs agents who represent some importers, through the airport.
“So, one common thing that I have noticed is that, we have not achieved the desired level of synergy between all these agencies. Everybody seems to come to the table with an idea of what their organization wants: the Airport Authority, the Aviation bodies, the Aviation Handling Companies, the travelers themselves; and the security agencies.
“So, we all have a mandate; and I have not seen enough synergy between all of them, though there is a level of synergy between them which is commendable. But I believe there is still a lot we can do together to create a more user friendly environment in the airport. And I will give you one example: I have used that airport a number of times; when you approach the airport, two kilometers before the airport, there is a construction going on around the airport. It fuels the indiscriminate parking of vehicles at the drop off point, and often, it is what leads to the very long traffic build up that you always see, before the airport.
“So I have seen situations where we spent two hours on that stretch, trying to get to the departure hall and this why you see people coming down from their vehicles, mounting motorcycles, or drawing their luggage, across traffic and things like that. When these kinds of people get into the departure hall, they are already stressed; and when you talk to them about compliance, about the law; of course, you discover that is not what they want to hear from you. What they want to hear is that they are still early enough, to meet their flight; anything else you tell them, is like a contributing factor to a situation where they might miss their flight!
“It is the same thing when coming back! Someone coming back having done 13hrs, maybe, a long transit in London or Paris and he comes down tired. So, the moment he finishes with immigration, the next thing he is thinking of is just about taking his bags and leaving. That is not then the right time to tell him: ‘what you are carrying is contraband’ or ‘you have merchandize in baggage’ or anything like that!
“So in talking to all our stakeholders, I am talking to them that we need to work together to create a better environment for our airport users, so that when they get to that place relaxed, it makes sense to them, when we now tell them, ‘it is not good to travel with this’ or ‘you can’t bring this with you’ or ‘pay duties and things like that’!
“They are all related. We cannot achieve that, if we do not work with the landlords at the airport: the police, security and these are the people responsible to ensure that we have smooth drive, both at the departure hall and arrival hall level; so we all have to work together.
“So, I would wish to have a rallying point, to create a situation where we will all have a single mandate and that mandate is that everything that is good for our country and economy should come first! Ahead of every other consideration!
“There should be no rivalry among the agencies, and we should work to complement ourselves. Our airports are not getting the kind of ratings we deserve internationally!
“We learnt the other day that an aircraft already on the tarmac, a gentleman came from nowhere and was trying to jump on the wings. This is a very serious security bridge! And so collectively, we all have to work together, to ensure that such situation do not repeat itself. We don’t create an environment that will make that kind of breaches possible again!” Comptroller Wale Adeniyi explained further.