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Death toll from boat sinking in Bangladesh rises to 69



Death toll from boat sinking in Bangladesh rises to 69

…As Gunmen kill 4 soldiers, 1 civilian in Anambra community***

Some 69 bodies had been recovered, while three passengers were still missing after a jampacked boat capsized on Sunday in a northern Bangladesh district, an official said Thursday.

Sujoy Kumar Roy, officer-in-charge of Panchagarh’s Boda Police station, told Xinhua that the boat had been recovered, but the search for the victims was ongoing.

He said no fewer than three passengers were still missing.

According to the official, the death toll from Sunday’s boat sinking incident in the Panchagarh district, 468 km away from the capital Dhaka rose to 69 on Wednesday.

This was after another body was retrieved from the Karatoya river. Of the victims, he said, 31 were women, 21 were children, and 17 were men.

SM Sirajul Huda, superintendent of Panchagarh District Police, earlier said that the jampacked boat, carrying some 100 passengers, mostly Hindu devotees were overturned.

This occurred due to overloading and sank minutes after it sailed from a terminal on Sunday afternoon.

The boat was travelling to a temple on the occasion of Mahalaya, a Hindu festival.

Dipankar Roy, a senior official of the Panchagarh district administration, said that members of the police, fire services and district administrations were searching for the missing.

He said a decision would soon be taken as to how long the search operation would be continued.

The Bangladeshi government has already formed a probe committee, which was asked to submit a report in three days.

However, Md Juhurul Islam, the district’s administration chief, told reporters on Wednesday that the committee sought more time for submitting the report as some of them were still engaged in the rescue operation.

He said they had granted the committee three more days to submit the report.

The ferry is still a key means of transport in the South Asian country, which is crisscrossed by hundreds of rivers.

Ferry and boat disasters are common in Bangladesh as the vessels are often overcrowded.

In another development, four soldiers and one civilian were, on Wednesday, killed by gunmen at Umunze in Orumba South Local Government Area of Anambra.

A source told the newsmen in Awka that the incident took place around the Zenith Bank axis of Umunze at about 12.40 p.m.

The source, who preferred anonymity, said that the soldiers were driving across when the gunmen opened fire on them, killing four of them.

The source said that a civilian, who was accidentally hit by a bullet during the attack, also died, adding that scores of people around the scene equally sustained varying degrees of injuries.

When contacted, the Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Anambra Police Command, DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, confirmed the attack but refused to comment on the causality figure.

“We received information on the shooting around Zenith Bank axis of Umunze about 12.40 p.m. today, Wednesday, Sept. 28,” he said.

Ikenga said that a detachment of police personnel had been deployed in the area.


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President Tinubu’s Economic Agenda and Nigeria Customs Service 



By Okey Ibeke

The parlous state of Nigeria’s economy and means of addressing the multifaceted challenges, among other pressing issues, constituted the elaborate manifesto on which President Bola Ahmed Tinubu relied on to pitch for the votes of Nigerians during the last presidential electioneering campaign. 

Since his winning the election and assuming office as the President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria’s Armed Forces, he has left no one in doubt as to his resolve to tenaciously explore means of alleviating the economic hardship that the majority of Nigerians are battling with. The evidence of this resolve is manifest in his policy initiatives and pronouncements, most political and statutory appointments, bilateral and multilateral, and other international engagements. He has, in less than four months, climbed many global stages in selling Nigeria to the world. 

In the media briefing that followed the first Federal Executive Council meeting after constituting his cabinet, the President, through the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of Economy, Chief Adebayo Olawale Edun, launched the 8-Point Agenda around which he’ll navigate to secure economic relief for Nigerians. 

Edun listed the agenda as including food security; ending poverty; economic growth and job creation; access to capital; improving security; improving the playing field on which people and particularly companies operate; rule of law; and fighting corruption. Edun also said that the President told them to be bold, creative and innovative. 

*President Bola Ahmed Tinubu

Among the strategic ministries, departments and agencies that President Tinubu will leverage on to deliver his economic promises, the Nigeria Customs Service ranks among the most critical, as international trade, border management, security and protection of the environment are key to realizing his agenda. 

In international trade, Customs plays a critical role not only in providing expedited cargo clearing processes, import and export procedures, but also in implementing effective controls that secure revenue, ensure compliance with fiscal policies, national laws, copyright laws, security and protection of wildlife, endangered plants and animal species, environment and society. The efficiency and effectiveness of Customs procedures have a significant influence on the economic growth and competitiveness of nations. These are achieved by applying modern techniques and technologies, while improving the quality of controls in an internationally harmonized manner.

Some of the techniques and tools as initiated by World Customs Organizations, which member countries deploy for efficient operations include: the WCO Framework of Standards and its 3 pillars, Harmonized Systems, Nomenclature and Classification of Goods, Valuation, Rules of Origin, Risk Management, Integrated Border Management, International Customs Transit System, Enforcement and Compliance, Integrity, Border Community and Stakeholders Engagement, among others.

It seemed that President Tinubu had good knowledge of all these that he desired a truly professional Customs Service, and appointed a thoroughbred, highly cerebral, and appropriate customs officer to head the Nigeria Customs Service. No wonder the officers and men of the Service and critical stakeholders were full of commendation for the President, for appointing the then Deputy Comptroller-General, Adewale Bashiru Adeniyi MFR, the Acting Comptroller-General on June 19, 2023. These commendations were not misplaced because the antecedents of Wale Adeniyi fit perfectly with the requirements for headship of a modern Customs Service. 

*The CGC, Wale Adeniyi

Adeniyi has over 30 years of experience in Customs Administration in the area of strategic and operational responsibilities. He possesses a deep understanding of the complex and constantly evolving international trade landscape. He has a strong command of Customs regulations, laws, and procedures as well as the ability to navigate and adapt to changing policies and regulations.

The Acting Comptroller-General had, over time, built strong relationships with stakeholders and collaborated effectively to ensure efficient and effective movement of goods across borders. He has a keen eye for details and the ability to identify potential risks and areas of non-compliance. This is evident in effective risk management strategies, guidance and support he developed and implemented in his past assignments, to ensure that all customs procedures are followed accurately and efficiently.

He had before the appointment, coordinated engagements with International Organizations including: World Customs Organization (WCO), World Trade Organization (WTO), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Bank (WB), International Monetary Fund (IMF). He also saw to the coordination of Customs bilateral and multilateral trade relations and others.

He was conferred with a National Honour of the Member of the Order of Federal Republic (MFR) by former President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2022 in recognition of his sterling performance as a customs officer.

Adeniyi bagged the Comptroller-General of Customs Award for the seizure of $8,065,612 million cash at Murtala Mohammed International Airport in January 2020 and a Large College Crest Award for Excellence in Service as Deputy Commandant, NCCSC Gwagwalada in December 2019. He is also a recipient of the World Customs Organization Award of Excellence as Project Team Leader, Securité Par Collaboration (SPC++), a Customs Regional Security Project, in January 2018.

Considering the transformative activities of the Nigeria Customs Service since the assumption of its leadership about 100 days ago, there’s every reason to assert that President Tinubu has not made a mistake in elevating Adeniyi to the zenith of Customs management. 

On assumption of office, Adeniyi in consultation with his management team embarked on a comprehensive overhaul of the Nigeria Customs Service, guided by the new administration’s policy thrust of “Collaboration, Consolidation and Innovative Solutions”. This is in recognition that to effect real change, there’s a need to incrementally challenge the status quo and instigate a transformation that was both dynamic and results-oriented. ​

As President Tinubu desperately needs extra revenue to tackle the myriad of economic challenges currently facing the country, Adeniyi in his patriotic zeal, introduced a series of reforms aimed at plugging revenue leakages, streamlining the customs clearance process and addressing the gaps that had existed in customs operations. Some of the noteworthy measures he initiated and implemented include:​

*The immediate setting up of a Revenue Review Performance Recovery Team

*Dissolution of existing Strike Force Teams that constituted the multiple layers of enforcement into the recognised structure of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU). This was done to reduce the multiple checkpoints from about 5 Units of checks at every stretch to just 2 that should comprise either the command or the FOU.

*The introduction of the Advanced Ruling system which represents a notable stride targeted at aligning Customs operations with global best practices, in line with the recommendations of the WTO TFA (World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement).

*The inauguration of a Steering Committee on the Implementation of the Authorised Economic Operators for Compliant Traders, with a clear focus on transitioning from the existing Fastrack 2.0 to the AEO concept.

*Interactions with the international community – WCO, JICA, Japan Customs among others on the implementation of the Customs Laboratory, adoption of geospatial, and conduct of a Time Release Study to mention a few.

*Completion of 2 Working engagements with the Customs Administration of the Republic of Benin, each paid by both administrations, to address the existing gaps that sustain the activities of smugglers and revenue leakage.

*The establishment of a committee tasked with revitalizing the zonal structures of the service, granting them the authority to rejuvenate the Service and easier resolution of transaction disputes. 

*The constitution of a new management team, appointed strictly based on merit, upholding the principle of equitable geopolitical representation.

*The commencement of the integration process for Customs Basic and intermediary institutions into the administrative framework of the Nigeria Customs Service.

*A strategic reassignment of Customs Area Controllers, also rooted in merit and in adherence to the principle of equitable geopolitical representation.

*The initiation of the development of a Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy for the Nigeria Customs Service, harmonized with the goal of contributing to the government’s development agenda. 

*The creation of an ideas bank comprising feedback and comments gathered during the operational visits to Customs commands.

*Re-energisation of the activities of the National Trade Facilitation Committee through engagements and the hosting of a retreat to chat the way forward on Trade Facilitation in Nigeria.

*Finalised arrangements with the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to integrate operational systems and minimise the registration of smuggled vehicles.

*Engagement with several stakeholders including government agencies, non-governmental agencies and the private sector. 

*The introduction of the Work-Life Balance (WLB) initiative, aimed at enhancing officers’ well-being and welfare, which signifies the new Customs’ unwavering commitment to ensuring that dedicated personnel lead balanced and fulfilling lives while maintaining peak performance in their roles.

These initiatives and many others, so far have in no small measure resulted in the huge increase in monthly revenue generation, a surge in the value of illegal goods and drugs seized, strengthening of interagency and stakeholders collaboration, deployment of cutting-edge technology to improve enforcement capabilities, reduction in average clearance time, increased operational efficiency and many other beneficial results.

While applauding the sterling performance of Adeniyi’s led Administration in the past 100 days, it is essential for President Ahmed Bola Tinubu to know that the Service encountered certain challenges during the initial phase of implementing the policy thrust. 

These challenges include resistance to change, bureaucratic bottlenecks, dissonance in fiscal and monetary policies, the need to reorient the mindset of some officers, trading public, clearing agents and other critical stakeholders. There are also the age-long persistent issues of smuggling; illegal activities of international border communities; undervaluation, under declaration and wrong classifications of imports; abuse of government industrial incentives, import duty waivers and concessions. 

Furthermore, the activities of other government agencies and their level of interference in the cargo clearance processes in the seaports, airports, and border stations, have to be looked into by Mr President. These agencies include NAFDAC, NDLEA, SON, Nigerian Police, Directorate of State Security, Plant and Animal Quarantine. The uncontrolled, most often unnecessary interventions constitute big hindrances to trade facilitation. 

Operations of shipping companies, terminal operators, Nigerian Ports Authority, bonded terminals, inland dry ports, and other relevant service providers have to be strengthened as their inefficiencies, most often impede the free flow of goods. The lingering problems of port access roads both in Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Onne, have to be vigorously addressed. 

For Mr. President to fully realize his desire for a productive, efficient port system and expected improvement in revenue, Nigeria Customs Service should not be left to battle these challenges alone. There’s a need for strong presidential intervention. 

*The Nigerian Flag

The most important and urgent action President Tinubu needs to also take in order to sustain the giant strides already recorded by Customs in the last 100 days, is confirmation of Adeniyi as substantive Comptroller-General. As the Service needs to leverage on collaboration, technical support, training aids from international bilateral, multilateral organizations, foreign Customs organizations, World Trade Organization, and World Customs Organizations, the state or uncertainty of Adeniyi’s acting capacity, will not engender enough confidence for them to be fully committed to impactful interactions and relationship with the Service.

Moreover, the critical local industry operators, foreign investors need a stable and predictable environment to answer Mr. President’s calls for investment. Confirming the Acting CG’s appointment, therefore, will not only enhance stability in the business environment but will also embolden Adeniyi to continue to deploy aggressive measures and control, that will improve the free flow of legitimate trade and attendance increase in much-needed revenue. 

Mr President should remember that he instructed his ministers to be bold and innovative. The head of the Nigeria Customs Service deserves to be no less.

*Okey IBEKE is the Principal Consultant, International Trade Advisory Services Ltd

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100 Days Mark: Contraband Goods Won’t Be Able To Get Into Market – CGC



…Wale Adeniyi Pledges to Adopt and Deploy Geospatial Intelligence in Tackling Illicit Traders***

When an Intelligent and highly informed Acting CGC with Zero tolerance for Smuggling is in the Driver’s Seat, woe betides every potential Smuggler. Bashir Adewale Adeniyi (MFR) in a One -on- One opens up, as he marks his 100th Day in Office, and vividly gives a picture of why Nigerian Smugglers may soon run out of business, as he pledges to leverage Technology, particularly, Geospatial Intelligence!

Excerpt please:- 

The C.G.C, we appreciate the unimaginable depth of Commitment you have brought to your mandate. You have been everywhere and for three weeks, even daring journalists could not keep pace with you. So our first question would be, how has it been, manning and justifying the onerous responsibility that comes with this very hard mandate? 

Well, we thank God, even though, it’s not been easy. 

But, it’s something that one has been used to, in terms of the pace and in terms of the depth of those visits all over. 

Though it hasn’t been easy. But then, these are familiar places for us. These are places we know. We know the strategic importance of some of these places. And we know how strategic; the kind of critical success factor it constitutes.

So we have to visit them. You know that Zone A accounts for virtually 70 percent of our operations.  It accounts for more in terms of revenue. So, unlike in those days when you can do Zone ‘A’ in two, or three days, you need more than a week to do Zone A now.

So that was how I had to be everywhere. The ports, the airports, the border stations. For those that I could not complete during that visit, I  came back, took a breather, and came back to work in Abuja. After a week or so, I went back to complete them.

You also know of those strategic borders in the north and the northwest, and then, I needed to go to those places and have a first-hand feel of what was happening there.

 Unfortunately, while all this was going on, we had an unfolding situation in Niger (Republic) and a significant decision that needed to be implemented.  And that entailed a very tough decision about our borders. And since this decision was taken, it has to be implemented.

The implementation has to be evaluated and assessed periodically. So that we could present the report of the monitoring to Mr. President. So, there was no choice.

 The pace was definitely frenetic at the beginning. And I thank God for His grace, for good health. We were able to accomplish all of that to the glory of God. 

Let me shoot this question: You would recall that in the past, there was a time when some of the officers from Kaduna, Katsina side, and especially Kano, were alleged to be tinkering with hard drugs. What is the situation now?  How do you intend to handle such a situation in the future?  

I think it’s a national malaise. It’s a problem. It’s a big problem that has its national dimension. It’s not just about the North. During the course of my tour, we had so many seizures. We equally conducted some targeted sting operations around the southwest border.

 We knew that once the border in the north against the Niger Republic was closed, there would be attempts to divert one or two things towards the southwestern border. So we did a covert operation around all of these places, targeting the diversion of food items.

But then, we got so many seizures of ammunition and drugs. 

So we can’t deceive ourselves that Nigeria is a transit country for those drugs. A number of those things are going to be consumed in Nigeria.  

Whether they are done in the north, or whether they are done in the south or in the east, it doesn’t really matter. The fact is that a good number of those drugs are finding patronage in Nigeria.

And it does call for concern. So whichever organisation is hit by that scourge must take very definitive and deliberate action to manage it. 

So we’ve had that situation in the past, when so many of our young officers were caught on the wrong side of drug abuse and the management then took a hard decision to say, look, these are people who will still be of use to their society, to the Service, and to their nation. 

 And the decision was taken to rehabilitate them. And working with some other government agencies and partners, we were able to do that.

That was an era, some 6, 7, 8 years ago. If you are presented with the same situation now, I am not too sure if that decision, the same decision will be taken. 

But then, it was a management decision taken at that time, and we have to respect the wisdom of those who are in the management.

If you are going to leverage on IT and technology, automatically you must also start thinking of the days when Customs was heavily endowed with helicopters and things like that. So I may ask, what exactly is the situation with the helicopters now? Especially now, that you are focusing at leveraging on IT and on technology?

If you look at Customs operations as it has evolved over the years; we started with people bringing hand-filled declarations to Customs Long Rooms.

From there we progressed to people typing them, and then you move them from one place to another, one window to another, all of that, in a very long room. 

But gradually, with the introduction of automation, we started reducing those processes and things like that. And everywhere in the world, Customs operations are undergoing that kind of digitalization. So we are also not resting in Nigeria to ensure that we become fully paperless in our transactions.

And we are already on course on that journey.

 If you look at how we started: people bringing in cargo, the ships coming in, the aircrafts coming in, the national summits progressing into, doing manifests electronically…

Now, we don’t have the kind of big manifests that we used to have in striking seats in those days any longer. Now when the manifest comes in electronically, importers through their agents can make their declarations also online.

When declarations are made online, you can do assessments online, and then you get your notice of payment, and then you can make your payments online. So all of these have been done. When a release is done, it can be communicated to the terminal operator electronically.

Similarly, Exit Notes can be generated electronically; the shipping company can send you what you are going to pay, and then you pay it electronically and all of that. Also, the payment system has equally undergone a complete transformation. 

So in all of these, there could be some interventions in between one process or the other. Look at terminal operators for example. 

When you finish your clearing and a release is communicated to terminal operators, terminal operators may now have Customs Agents coming over their window, collecting Release Notes, the TDO (Terminal Delivery Order), what do you call it, and then… on and on. 

Some aspects may not be automated. But we are also finding ways in which we can have APIs between us and all these other agencies. So,it would be just like plugging into our system, so that once we release, we can release to them and then it is automatic.

So, it is a process. 

With all the stakeholders in the system, using these tools, these innovations are to enhance our jobs, to make our jobs more efficient, so as to create a better experience for our importers of course, and for our exporters.

 So, that’s how far technology can help us.

 But more importantly, technology can also help us now to go behind the scenes and conduct a number of audits, and to do some kind of investigations.

And because all these things are done online, it’s easier for us to also use technology to take a second look at what we did yesterday, what we did last week or, what we did last year, and to ensure due processes were followed. Or to double-check, whether there are some contraventions and things like that. 

So, we are also strengthening those parts by making sure that those post-clearance audits are inculcated in our system.

 Outside of those systems, when you talk about enforcement, it is also possible that we will integrate more technology into our enforcement.

For instance, if you look at the issue of our checkpoints, Stakeholders for some time now, have been complaining that from Seme to Lagos, depending on who is counting, what time they are counting, or who they counted with and things like that… Any number between 40 and 80, that’s what they’re flying. 

And yet, if you talk to all these agencies, including Customs, they will tell you that look, because of the terrain, people can come in through the Creeks; they can burst out at Badagry, they can burst out at Agbara, they can burst out at Elassa, or they can go all the way to Lagos Island and come into all the markets through the Creeks and things like that!

So, it does make sense, as some would say: yes, if they’re coming through Idiroko, they can also come through the Creeks of Ipokia, and then from there, they can get to Ojoo Road, and boom, they’re out there in Lagos…!

I can go on and on.

But we have technology that can help us to map all these routes and help us to identify (in all these), where are the convergents, where do all these routes converge.

So even if you want to come through the Creeks, yes? There is no Creek that leads straight to, say, this or that particular market in Lagos or Ojoo Road. 

Again, let’s say: it is Alaba Market that you are going to; You must first come out somewhere. So, (it’s like) If you’re coming through this, you must (first) come out somewhere. In other words, we can now use geospatial intelligence!

Geospatial is a co-occurrence of elements of geography and then space. 

So, all the various landmarks, the markets, the bridges, the buildings, the rivers, it has taken care of all of them. So if in our operations, we have a geospatial map of the entire place, by using those tools, we can be able to determine what is the convergence point of all these places.

*The starting point: a decoration by Vice President Shettima, a gesture that instantly sent core maritime stakeholders, into wild, but justifiable exhilarating euphoria!

So, instead of deploying patrols, and checkpoints to track all these places, you can now concentrate on the convergence points!

That means: Oh, okay, if you are coming by the creeks: Welcome! It’s okay because we have people, somebody around the very important points.

And, if you are coming by the road; Welcome.

 It becomes okay, even if you went through any routes in so far as your destination is this Market or that.

So, even if you are coming out through Iba. It will still be welcome! That’s a typical way in which geospatial intelligence can help us. 

We are already beginning to familiarize Customs decision-makers, the Controllers, the ACGs, and the DCGs, with the potential that is inherent in the use of this technology. And when they are sufficiently educated on this, it won’t be difficult for them to use it as a basis for making decisions.

And then, those decisions can now be passed on to the Patrol Officers. And they too, we are also now going to expose (patrol officers) to those tools.

 There are some little, little things that people also need to understand. They need to understand Map reading. This is the map of each Area. These are the routes. These are the roads. How would people (Smugglers) come? Why would they prefer to pass through each particular road?

 If these people are aware that there is a Customs checkpoint in Gbaji, then Where are the other routes they can take? Questions like that must be asked…

So, they need to have some elements of map reading skills. They just need to understand how to use some navigational aids. So if you get caught up somewhere and you don’t know where you are any longer, but if you have some navigational aids and maps, you’ll be able to say, okay, let me track. 

Either we go back to our base or ask: where’s the nearest river? Where’s the nearest telecom mast or where we can get network? Where’s the nearest police station? You know, all those kinds of things. So, they need to also get their knowledge of these.

So this is a whole menu of how technology can make us truly effective. This is technology that is otherwise, also used in other fields of human endeavor. 

It is being used in rescue management, disaster management, agriculture, fighting Climate Change, and things like that. 

But we have found its applicability in Customs operations, especially in postmortem. That’s why we are embracing it. And we are positive that we are going to get very good results in that!

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100 Days Mark: We Are Set To Reposition, Restore COWA’s Glory- Kikelomo Adeniyi



… As COWA President unfolds a stunning vision of a body envisioned to touch lives and restore Smiles!

The President of the Customs Officers’ Wives Association (COWA)), Kikelomo Adeniyi is determined to restore the past glory of the body.

 In an exclusive interview with the Maritime First, the COWA Arrowhead acknowledges the setbacks members contend with, even as she emphasizes her determination not only to restore the past glory but to set it on enviable new heights in the shortest time possible!

The COWA President spoke against the backdrop of the 100th Day in Office.

Excerpt please:-

 We commend you, for the noteworthy enthusiasm and unspared commitment you’ve brought to the office. For a good number of years, COWA operated on very low frequency. Some said it was in Comatose. Some said it was half dead and had to be resuscitated. As the COWA President, how has the task of trying to restore COWA’s glory been since you adorned the mantle of leadership?

Yes, like you said, COWA had been half-dead for some time, before we came in June. But before then, I think some COWA members had gathered themselves and honestly tried to resuscitate the association.

I must say that they did what they could at that time. That effort started around October last year. They did a little empowerment here and there just to keep COWA going. But it’s not the same when the leadership or the head is not in total support of what we do.

*The COWA President, Kikelomo Adeniyi

 If the support is not total, you know there’s no way we can truly ot totally achieve our objectives. 

You know that for COWA, our objective is very simple. It’s to support families of Customs officers, and also to foster the bond between wives of Customs officers so that they can have good friendship and understanding. And that has been it. 

Since we came on board we’ve tried to come together and sensitise them on what COWA should actually be. Because I believe that if we understand what we’re doing, then we’ll do it right.

So that was the first thing we tried to do: Sensitising. Providing enlightenment about COWA.  

So I can say within the past three weeks, we’ve been able to come together. We’ve elected our executives. Our board of trustees also has been effected.

*The COWA President, Mrs Kikelomo Adeniyi, with the Comptroller General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, during COWA’s visit to the Customs Management to solicit support and collaboration.

We paid a visit to the CG last week. Just to inform the management of our vision; to let them know how they can come in and support COWA, so as to take it to a really enviable level; and they’ve assured us of their support. We have so much to do. We have so much, yet undone. So that’s where we are now.  

We are looking at how to meaningfully touch the widows and their children.

It is a great vision to seek to touch the widows and children of hardworking officers who departed suddenly. How do you intend to provide the succour? Do you intend to be paying school fees or, some other general welfare? 

Providing succour is very important, so like you said, succour is the first thing. The first step is making them feel wanted by supporting them in every way, especially emotionally. It is on top of our priority.

When they are stabilized, when they are settled emotionally, I believe that they can stand on their feet and conquer the world. So succour is very important. 

*The COWA top hierarchy in a group photograph

But, I’m particularly passionate about children.

On my own, I visit orphanages, I try to touch the little ones around me. I take my children to orphanages, sometimes during their birthdays, so that they can have an understanding that the kind of life they have, some don’t have it.

I have been doing that. 

For widows, it’s a painful thing when you suddenly lose a partner. It’s even more painful when you cannot carry on with what both of you were doing when the other person was alive.

We also believe that if we take care of the children, you are already touching the widow. Like a Yoruba adage puts it: a child’s good health gladdens the mother. So, I believe that if you take care of a child, you have taken care of the widow; and this could be by paying the school fees.

So, by supporting their children’s educational needs and all that, you have taken away some part of the pain.

When COWA takes the burden of school fees; and in addition explore issues of what the widow would feed on, the bereaved family can gradually stabilise.

  I still believe that that same child can better off the life of the widow, later.

Dr. Beta Edu, currently the Minister of Humanitarian and Disaster management has been thinking along the same line. Do you have any desire in future for collaboration with Dr. Beta Edu in respect of widows in particular?

Yes, yes. Of course, we are already thinking of working along that path. And that’s why we’re planning on meeting with certain relevant associations that share goals like us. A good example is the POWA (Police Officers Wives Association), and, NAOWA (Nigerian Army Officers Wives Association).

They’re already deep in pursuing these honourable goals that we want to do. We could also learn a few things more, from them.

 We’re going to connect and be part of some of these women’s associations in Nigeria. In the past, we understand that when they send letters to us, they don’t get any response from us.

So they feel COWA is not working. 

That is why we’re trying to, create awareness in that regard so that they know that we’re back and we are back for good. So we will be working with them.

 Let me ask the last question, this is September, by December, from your own calculations, and your own vision, what would COWA, under your watch must have accomplished?

 Between now and December?

We are taking a trip to Lagos next week. And we are also going to some of these border stations of the Nigeria Customs Service.

 I am already working with the Chairpersons in those border areas to try to gather students that they feel are, you know, really doing well in their academics, for a sponsorship programme.

We must also identify and register those, who otherwise, will not be able to afford WAEC. Though the exams are coming up maybe in May next year; they need to register for it now. 

So, those are part of our plans for now.

 Aside from supporting their education, we are also going to be doing a lot in the health sector.

We will be facilitating a lot, health-wise. 

So in any case, from now till December, we are going to work and achieve a lot in the area of education. Especially, with maybe, a little empowerment here and there, before the end of December.

Essentially, we have fine-tuned the vision on the drawing board: largely, in terms of what we must achieve. As well as all that is achievable. 

We are already working on goals concerning the needs of the children.

But the area that gives me much joy, is the broad area concerning the bigger picture. On daily basis, we have been exploring the possibility of delving into primary and secondary schools projects.

The COWA as a body had attempted to build a school before here in Abuja. We are exploring possibilities of partnering with the Nigeria Customs Service, to ensure that we obtain the relevant assistance in making that vision a reality.

Though this vision goes beyond your question,, I can also highlight it here. You must appreciate the fact that most of the children of Customs officers are presently in private schools all over the country and the kind of fee structure that they pay in these schools puts unnecessary pressure on those officers and their families, to maintain their kids in those schools.

I sincerely believe that if the Customs could put up good schools, noteworthy schools that would offer quality education, even if it means Customs providing some subsidy so that Customs officers can comfortably put their kids in those schools without cutting serious holes in their pockets, then the relevance of COWA would be significant, felt. 

I am strongly focused on that vision.

But, I equally recognise the need to first create a very strong structure for the COWA.

Such a strong structure seems to be currently, missing. It was the missing link in the previous past administrations of COWA.

From my understanding, it was like everything revolved so much around the personalities that were running COWA. So, I am working at putting emphasis on those structures, rather than on the individuals, as prescribed by the Constitution.

On that pedestal, the first pillar is the Board of Trustees. 

COWA has therefore identified very credible people within and outside the Service. Some of the very senior officers of the service were cast to be in the Board of Trustees.

That process is ongoing and almost completed.

In addition to this, within ourselves, we have had engagements and consultations to identify capable hands that will run the association as members of the executive. I can tell you for free, that we have successfully been able to put such an executive in place!

 Now, the structure is up and running at the national level. So, I want to concentrate and replicate this on the Zonal and the Area levels.

The Zonal Chairman of Zone A had come for a briefing. We had extensive discussions. And based on the discussions with the Chairman of Zone A, I will be having an operational tour soon.

The Operational familiarization tour of Zone A would afford me the opportunity, to meet directly with these officers. That is, the core members.

From the feedback so far received, members are enthusiastically waiting. They are waiting to receive, they are waiting to contribute towards the realization of that mission. 

Presently, there are also a number of other things that we have been looking at, to make COWA different.  

In terms of the modus operandi, COWA essentially, is largely dependent, on getting money from the Customs. 

And since COWA is positioned, and registered as a non-government organization, a non-profit making organization, you know, the first challenge that we must face; and definitely the first challenge we must find a way to overcome, is to make COWA independently funded and to get such funds in a sustainable manner.  

Consequently, we have come up with a number of innovations to ensure that this can be done.

Number one, we are planning a fundraising, through which people can contribute funds.

Number 2, there are a lot of business proposals that we have been discussing with our executive.

 One of it is the running of businesses that would bring in money for the association in a sustainable manner.

And to get all of these, one of the things we are targeting is to get our Secretariat back. 

 Customs took it over some years ago. We want to get the Secretariat back. 

Secondly, one of the properties of COWA is a hall. After the inspection, we feel that the hall can be conveniently renovated and put to good use. Thereafter, it can become a source of credible funds for the association.

We are equally studying how we can, maybe also, put up a plaza in any of the commercial places where Customs can give COWA land, and then, through genuine partnership, we can begin to bring money in a very sustainable manner. What else can I say for now?

Thank you, for your questions on what we can do between now and December. The truth, however, is that we are already looking, at the bigger picture. For the long haul is actually far more important to us…!

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