Customs Conference: President Tinubu Pledges to address Lack of Comprehensive Data in Nigeria

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By Innocent Orok

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has hinted at plans by his administration to address what he termed historical inadequacies of policy making hitherto thwarted by a lack of comprehensive data in Nigeria. The President regretted the lack of comprehensive data, saying it had been “a technological affliction” that has hindered the growth trajectory of Nigeria and the entire Africa, impeding the ability to make informed governance decisions.

President Tinubu disclosed this on Thursday during the opening ceremony of the 2023 Comptroller-General of Customs Annual Conference held in Lagos, saying because data is the guiding light in the ever-evolving landscape of the modern world, Nigeria can no longer afford to function in the dark. The President who was represented at the conference by his deputy, Vice President Kashim Shettima, noted that the grand vision of his administration is to deploy data to make sound government decisions.

Shettima who described Tinubu as an“accounting virtuoso” with an unparalleled understanding of data and its significance to piloting the affairs of the country, noting that it is due to his knowledge of data as the invaluable gold of the 21st century that the President strategically appointed “tech-savvy Nigerians” into critical government positions in order to ensure strategic planning.

He said, “Even before we were given this mandate, we knew that every facet of our lives is woven with data. We must not only commit to deploying data to make decisions within the government but also address the historical inadequacies of Nigerian policymaking, often impeded by a lack of comprehensive data. Our current governance landscape demands a transformative intervention, and the solution is what has brought us together today.

“There’s no doubt that the chiming of this clock of modernity is inviting us to take action. It’s inviting us to adopt evidence-based processes and innovative strategies to align policies with the objectives of this administration, to streamline decision-making, and to resolve conflict arising from misinformation and inconsistent policies within the government.”

President Tinubu also underscored the need for the integration of complex data to interpret the patterns of transactions and interactions in international trade, just as he disclosed plans by his administration to turn Nigeria into a hub of export and import activities.

Observing that the benefits of comprehensive data go beyond determining revenue generation, he said, “Data provides the sharpest lens for us to connect the dots, even in establishing the security of our borders. We can easily determine the traffic of people and goods around a specific border and share indisputable information with other nations with just a punch on our computers.

“Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I assure you that we remain resolute in our belief that Nigeria is unequivocally on track not only to accumulate terabytes of factual surveys but also to establish a robust public service system that upholds data integrity at its core.

“Our ambition extends beyond accumulation; it extends to transformation. We aspire to position Nigeria as the preferred destination for all stakeholders involved in export and import activities overseen by the Customs.”

Expressing delight with efforts by the Nigeria Customs Service to accumulate large amount of data to shape a public service system that upholds data integrity at its core, the President noted that the first step is to invest in the training and capacity-building of “Customs officers to stand shoulder to shoulder, terabyte by terabyte, with the best minds in the world.”

Declaring the conference open, he expressed hope that discussions at the annual event would “set the trajectory for a new era in the Nigeria Customs Service”.

Earlier, the Customs CG, BA Adeniyi, while welcoming participants at the event, said the significance of technology in global Customs operation cannot be over emphasised and hence the Nigeria Customs’ adaptation to global requisitions.He expressed optimism that the Theme of this year’s conference would provide guiding standards and principles in helping the Nigerian government open the frontiers, as it is requisite that the Customs streamline and integrate its services in its bid for global service delivery.

In his goodwill message, the Director General of the World Customs Organisation (WCO), Dr Kunio Mikuriya, praised the Nigerian Customs for upscaling global service delivery in maritime service delivery.He said he was optimistic that given the dedication and commitment of the Nigeria Custom in adopting technology as a major leeway in global trade, it was just a matter of time before Nigeria became the reference point in Africa’s Customs revolution.

Also speaking at the event, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, promised that Lagos would continue to adapt to innovations and changing times in global trade.He promised to ensure seamless infrastructure and a conducive environment to enable the Nigeria Customs Services to not only match global standards and yearnings but to also make the organisation the best in the world.

He praised Customs for adopting technology, stressing that thinking out of the box remains critical to Nigeria’s sustainability and growth, hence the belief that CGC’s theme for 2023 is not only commendable but indeed poignant in Nigeria’s quest for world growth and development.

On his part, the Ooni of Ife, HRH, Oba Adeye Enitan Ogunwusi, praised the commitment of the leadership of the Nigeria Customs to adding the Tinubu administration in achieving its set eight-point agenda.He advocated a special economic status for Lagos State, given its contributions to the nation’s economy in terms of revenue generation and developmental impact.

Also in attendance were Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs, Sen. Isa Jibrin; Chairman, House Committee on Customs, Hon. Leke Abejide; Secretary, World Customs Service, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, and Deputy Governor of Gombe State, Manasseh Daniel Jatau.

Others are His Royal Highness, Oba of Ilaro, Oba Olugbenle Olu; former Minister of Information Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and former Comptrollers of the Nigeria Customs Service, among others.

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