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By Chinwendu Agoha (Governance Reporter)

The Buhari Media Organization (BMO) has said that the 2020 revenue figure of N1.5trn generated by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has proved that President Muhammadu Buhari's decision to shut the nation's border for 16 months was a masterstroke.

The BMO in a statement on Monday by its Chairman, Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary Cassidy Madueke, said it was gratifying that the Customs earned more revenue last year from cargoes that came in through the nation's Ports contrary to the misgivings of some stakeholders.

It said: " Most of these cargoes used to be shipped to the Benin Republic from where they were smuggled into the country before the borders were closed temporarily to put systems in place to check revenue leakages.

"That the agency exceeding the 2020 revenue target of N1.38 trn by nearly N200bn to top N1.5 trn in spite of a global coronavirus crisis as well as a resultant national lockdown is a confirmation that the partial border closure was a right move after all.

"We invite Nigerians to note that verified data from the NCS showed that before 20th August 2019 when the border closure began, the agency was raking in between N4bn and N5bn daily but generated between N5bn and N9bn daily after the borders were shut.

"In fact, it is on record that the highest ever daily receipt from Custom was recorded sometime in September last year when the agency collected N9.2bn in one day. This has never happened before and it showed that rather than create a shortfall in revenue, the border closure shored up Customs receipts in 2020.

" So it would be foolhardy for anyone to dismiss President Buhari's decision to temporarily shut the borders as a poorly thought-out one based on NCS' 2020 report card."

The group also hailed the Comptroller General of Customs, Col Hameed Ali (Rtd), for keying into the Buhari administration's economic policy thrust of raising non-oil revenue and fighting corruption since his appointment in August 2015.

"Col. Ali's appointment was one that didn't go down well with many because he did not come from within the Customs Service and not a few Nigerians will forget in a hurry how the leadership of the 8th Senate frustrated his initiatives over his uncompromising stance on the correct interpretation of this Administration's fiscal policies. However, the year-on-year achievements of the agency, including that of the outgone year under his watch confirm that the President was right to think outside the box regarding his appointment.

" So it should not be a surprise that his no-nonsense pedigree paved way for ongoing reforms that have since led to strategic deployment of personnel, strict enforcement of extant guidelines by relevant units and departments, and most importantly, the automation of the Customs process which, to a large extent, eliminated vices associated with the manual process.

"It is also important to note that the period of the border closure led to diplomatic engagements with neighboring countries on joint border patrols among others, and the introduction of e-Customs which will eventually lead to the installation of 135 modern scanners at strategic entry points as well as a control center for monitoring the scanning sites.

"Our expectation is that the agency would continue to exceed its revenue targets as well as prevent the entry of items that could compromise the nation's security like it did last year with the seizure of 4,304 items with a duty paid value of over N28bn including arms, ammunition, illicit drugs and banned goods,

" We want to remind the Custom leadership of the Buhari administration's new performance management framework on rewarding exceptional revenue performance and warning of severe consequences for failure to achieve agreed revenue targets"

BMO also reassured Nigerians that President Buhari remained committed to building a structurally resilient economy that will not rely almost solely on oil receipts. NNL.