Dikko Inde Abdullahi, Dikko is a man whose continuing legacies will continue to speak for him in the mirrors of History as an industrious and visionary Nigerian. He has enjoyed a fair share of lives good and ill all through his life. Six years after his ascension unto office, the achievements of the former Comptroller-General of the Customs (C-G-C), Alhaji Dikko Inde Abdullah’s life is a compelling testimony of vision, hard work, diligence. In an interview with Adedayo Adejobi,the unusual 54 year-old Bulgarian-trained economist who worked under three Presidents and resigned on his volition without lobbying the incumbent President who hails from his state, tells of his compelling strides to ensure a radical turn-around in the operations and productivity of the Customs right from his time as an Area Comptroller at the Seme Borders, his achievements, regrets, continuing legacies, one held up before the mirrors of History on an industrious and visionary Nigerian...
My Background and Pedigree….
I was born on May 11, 1960 to the family of Abdullahi Usman Inde, at Musawa in Musawa Local Government Area of Katsina State. There I started my early education in 1967 at Musawa Primary School, Musawa where I obtained my first School Leaving Certificate. Thereafter I proceeded to Government College, Kaduna in 1970 to 1975, where I obtained the West Africa School Certificate in 1980. I was the House Captain of El-kanemi House and Senior Prefect of my graduating set.
At the end of my secondary school education, I then proceeded to the University of Dimitrov Apostle Tshenov, Suishtov, Bulgaria where I graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Economics. My quest for education made me acquire my Master's Degree in Finance with special emphasis on Investment Finance from the University of D.A. Tsenov-Suishtov Bulgaria and joined the Customs Service thereafter..I also attended leadership training at the University Of Pittsburg, USA.
I enlisted at the Superintendent Cadre of the Nigerian Customs Service in 1988. From 1988 when I enlisted in the Nigeria Customs Service, I made tremendous progress by rising to the rank of an Assistant Comptroller-General within a few years. I acknowledge that my promotion was quite rapid as I quickly rose to the rank of an Assistant Comptroller-General within a few years largely on account of my performance over the years, I was given a very prominent position of the ACG Headquarters from there and in no time, I was made the Comptroller-General of Customs under the Former President ,MutawallenKatsina , Umaru Musa Yar,adua.
I was appointed a member of the Port Decongestion Committee in 1994. This snowballed into my appointment in 2001 to open Phase II and III of the Kirikiri Lighter Terminal to ease congestion. From then, I served in several customs commands which include Tincan Island Port, Apapa, Imo Command, Kaduna, Investigation and Inspection Headquarters, Abuja, Badagry Area Command, Seme Border, ACG Headquarters, and Comptroller-General of Customs before my voluntary disengagement on the 18th of August, 2015.
In recognition of my performance while in Tin Can Island Port, I was awarded a commendation from the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), as the Customs Area Controller of the Badagry Area Command, a Command that oversees the nation's premier border with regards revenue collection and trade facilitation and as the ACG Headquarters, I was flooded with several citations and awards for excellent performance.
The awards increased with his appointment as the Comptroller-General of Customs.
I have endured several challenges in life and at all times it looked like I wasn’t going to survive it, but I survived it. Like they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’’
I also faced the herculean challenges of breaking parity…
I also faced the challenge of building capacity of men and women of the Nigerian customs. A lot of them were sent on courses abroad. But more importantly, I was able to transit to pre- shipment inspection to destination inspection. When in came in, what I met was risk assessment report, and so I introduced Pre- Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR). With Pre- Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR), it became necessary for customs officers to be the agency conducting inspection of the containers. I was also able to save government 17billion annually by moving the inspection of cargoes from pre-shipment inspectors to custom officers and developed indigenous capacity. The point therefore is that government no longer had to pay anybody, company or agency pre-shipment from the inspection of their cargoes. It is now an operation being carried out by men and officers of the Nigeria Customs Service . They are trained to do their jobs, capacity has increased, fulfillment and career growth has been sustained by that policy. Reckon also that the 17 Billion has now been saved; importers have also been saved the hassles of paying for that service to private agencies while custom officers stood by.
Now subsequently, I had to do other welfare related matters within the customs circle. I needed to increase salaries and revenue generation and boost the welfare package of Nigerian customs. I proposed to Mr. President that the salaries of customs officers as revenue generating service should be made commensurate with what people earn in the federal Inland Revenue Service. When it was eventually approved by Mr. President, it translated into massive increase in revenue generation. Revenue moved from over 30 billion to 89 billion every month. We were meeting and surpassing our targets and also engaging in enforcement duties. We bought helicopters, armed the service to combat smugglers, and reduced very significantly, the incidences of smuggling across the border.
And I served under 3 Presidents- Yar Adua, Goodluck and Buhari…….
It is also important to stress that I served under three Presidents in a system that has had only 4 Presidents since the advent of democracy in 1999.I was appointed by Yar Adua, served under President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and a few months under Buhari where I had to send in my papers on grounds of early retirement, and give others the opportunity to serve the country in whatever capacity. I left on the 18th of August, 2015, the 6th anniversary of my appointment and my records are there for everyone to see; huge revenue generation, human resource capacity, trade facilitation , automation of customs operations that has reduced personal contact and dwell time for imported cargo which ensured the clearance of cargo within 48 hours. In addition to aggressive interdiction of economic saboteurs and smugglers and so on .
Going down memory lane, a few months back, Inde Dikko finds humbling and enthralling a El-Rufai, a notable figure’s remarks, recently when Gov El Rufai came to commission the five star hospital in Karu, he said and is quoted in these words, ‘‘Inde Dikko has done what most Nigerians would not do, and what is very most unusual. The records show that he comes from the same state as Mr. President, in which case, he could have lobbied to stay. However, Abdullahi lobbied to go while others were lobbying to stay. And that was why Buhari received him a day before he left office formally. He left at his own timing on the sixth anniversary of his appointment. Very remarkable and he didn’t lobby anybody’’.
For Inde Dikko, ‘‘6years was enough for me to make a difference. I want to leave others to try, because I am not the sole repository of ideas. I am happy with what I have done in the Nigerian customs for 6 years in terms of welfare, revenue generation, destination inspection, and positioning the organisation internationally.’’
My Legacy, footprints in the sands of time- Giving account of my tenure in service, they are subtle interventions but remarkable Giant Strides…….
Since he assumed office as the Comptroller General of the Nigeria customs services in 2009, Dikko Inde Abdullahi (CFR)revolutionised the customs operations, process and policies. Today, six years after his willful resignation, the service has recorded stupendous progress from an analogue system to an ICT service with a highly motivated workforce.
On resumption, he flagged off a Six-Point Agenda as the road map for his intended reform agenda. In five years, his administration has taken the agency to unprecedented levels. Among the many accomplishments include a 100 percent salary increment and capacity building programs extended to all levels of officers and men across and beyond Nigeria as part of human capital development and motivation program, added to that is an aggressive infrastructural development which saw the building of new barracks, rehabilitation/upgrade of old ones, construction of office buildings, printing press, hospitals, schools among others across the country in addition to the magnificent Regional Training Academy in Gwagwalada, Abuja. Besides the purchase of a jet to ease Customs operations, the revenue profile of the Customs also shot to an unprecedented high, with the agency raking in a record N100 Billion at a point as against N30 Billion which was the highest in past administrations. His supplying of the officers and men of the Customs with hundreds of vehicles, arms and equipments, heightened awareness of importers, and community-based programs in border communities also helped in reducing incidences of smuggling and arresting leakages and corruption as well as conscientious efforts at revamping the image of the agency
His women empowerment program via the Customs Officers Wives Association (COWA) was also touched. These strides among others, earned Dikko as he is popularly called two National Awards namely the MFR, OFR and CFR by both Yar’Dua and the President Goodluck Jonathan’s government respectively. The Nigeria Customs also, in a historic accomplishment, hosted the 66th session of the World Customs Organisation (WCO)’s Policy Meeting in Nigeria in 2011.
The 54 year-old, Bulgarian-trained economist who is known to enthusiastically encourage scholarship also vigorously pursued the E-Customs project in ensuring fast clearance of goods and the general Customs and Excise procedure so as to meet up with global standards. Under him the Customs also entered bilateral agreements with Customs bodies of several countries.
‘‘ From the start of my administration, I came out clear with a vision through a six point agenda-capacity building, maximising the potentials of the service through capacity building, moral rebirth for discipline and integrity in the service, in tandem with the nation’s current re-branding agenda, incentivizing productivity and ensuring an enhanced welfare package for officers and men of service, consolidating on the current e-customs through ASYCUDA for international best practices, continued collaboration and partnering with stakeholders and international organizations, thus fostering thorough understanding of the service, in the eye of the general public, using an intensified and well-coordinated public relations platform’’. Dikko Explained
Continuing, ‘‘Under my tenure, the Nigerian Customs service became very active in world customs Organisation. Indeed, Nigeria has become a regional hub for World Customs Organisation (WCO). I was at some point the Vice Chairman of the regional body of theWorld Customs Organisation (WCO). Brussels took notice of what was happening under my tenure and they collaborated extensively, such that they have a regional office in a Gwagwaladaand also seeing me elected Vice Chairman of the World Customs Organisation (WCO) and Central Region, Chairman, African Region Customs’’
I also hosted the first of its kind Policy commission meeting (the highest body of the WCO), attended by fifty two (52) heads of customs organisations worldwide.
He no doubt had great organizational ability, desire, ambition and motivation to turn the Nigerian customs around and make it world acclaimed in the context of what they do at the world customs organisation in Brussels.
Indeed, and without prejudice to the outcome of the 2015 Presidential elections, I had informed the presidency that I will be proceeding on voluntary exit to make way for new and vibrant ideas in the system.
"The sacrifice is to give chance to others so that they can come up and continue with the legacies and the reforms and structure that I have put in place.’’
One of his regrets remains that he was only able to take the proposed Customs headquarters in Abuja from foundation level to over 90 percent completion. It was my earnest desire to see that project completed and commissioned under my tenure. Unfortunately the structures are firmly in place to ensure that the project continues and eventually finished.
I would also have loved to boost revenue generation to about 100 billion per month. I got near, but I didn’t quite hit the target because fiscal and monetary policy changes by the Central Bankof Nigeria and theFederal Ministry of Finance ban on importation on a few items. Bye and bye, it’s been a very successful tenure for me and I achieved over eighty per-cent of what I set out to do, and for that I remain very grateful to God.
Secondly I regret the fact that I was unable to accomplish the comprehensive overhaul of the Customs and Excise Management Act . We put in so much effort to amend the operational law of the Customs Service which has been in existence since 1960, it is a very old law and I grieve the fact that legislative lethargy made it impossible for us to change the law to bring the operations of the service in conformity with international best trade practices and to be able to meet the twin objectives of trade facilitation and revenue generation. My challenge to the management of the service is to utilise the template we have created and the draft bill to urgently amend the law to position the customs services for better performance.
Describing the Dikko Inde Abdullahi as a rare and priceless gift to Nigeria , Chairman of the House Committee on Customs, Hon. Sabo Nakudu, recommended officers of the Customs, students of the Customs systems, and just about everyone interested in studying the dynamics of leadership to take a cue from the former Comptroller General.