CG Adeniyi: The Impactful PR in Customs Management, By Yushau A. Shuaib

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On June 13, 2024, an email from Janice Hills of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) announced a Campaign, “100 Days of Impactful PR at Customs Service,” as a Finalist for the 2024 Golden World Award (GWA) in public Relations.

As a finalist, the campaign will now proceed to the second round, where more materials, including documents, relevant web links, images, and videos, will be submitted to enable the jury from various countries to decide on the winning entries.

The campaign, a testament to the strategic leadership of the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, was previously honoured with a Certificate of Excellence at the 2024 SABRE African PR, a prestigious recognition at the annual conference of the African Public Relations Association (APRA) in Cote d’Ivoire.

The campaign recognised the strategic deployment of public relations (PR) tactics by Adeniyi, in 100 days of acting as Comptroller General, to raise awareness about the New Customs Act and the Reform Agenda within the sector – a testament to his visionary leadership and innovative approach.

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Upon assuming the role of acting Comptroller General on June 19, 2023, Adeniyi was presented with a unique opportunity. The immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari had on May 23, 2023, precisely a week before his handover to President Tinubu, assented to the Nigeria Customs Act, amending it for the first time in over 64 years. This presented a key opening for Adeniyi to use the campaign to raise awareness about the transformative import, value, expenditure, and accountability changes promised by the new Act and the stricter penalties and sanctions for Excise duty violations.

The Act specifies that appointment of the Comptroller General of the service would no longer be open to non-career individuals, as it empowers the President to appoint a CGC from career-serving officers, provided they hold a rank not lower than that of an Assistant Comptroller General (ACG).

As a distinguished Fellow and former Vice President of the Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Adeniyi played a pivotal role in fostering stakeholder collaboration. His efforts were instrumental in aligning the NCS’s core responsibilities with President Tinubu’s priorities in trade facilitation, revenue collection, societal protection, and cooperation. This demonstrates the NCS’s unwavering commitment to national goals.

In just three months of his acting capacity, Adeniyi had intensified awareness campaigns through capacity-building programmes, stakeholder engagements, and media interactions. One of the other major challenges he faced on assumption of office was managing the trade embargo between ECOWAS states and Niger Republic due to a coup. Despite the public outcry over border closures affecting businesspeople and border communities, Adeniyi’s crisis communication strategies involved consultations with community leaders, youth groups, and business stakeholders towards providing relief, alternatives and legitimate options.

His leadership and managerial skills through strategic communication enhanced stakeholder collaboration ensured border security, influenced the citizenry’s compliance with customs reforms, significantly boosted revenue generation and instilled a sense of optimism and hope for the future. It also considerably contributed to the productivity of his management team. Impressed by the unparalleled feat and strategy deployed, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu approved the confirmation of Adeniyi’s appointment as substantive Comptroller General from October 19, 2024.

Interestingly, Kabir Abdulsalam of PRNigeria and Maryam Na’Allah of Spokespersons Digest, both staff writers at Image Merchants Promotion Limited, studied and documented Adeniyi’s public relations strategies in their forthcoming book titled “Impactful PR in Customs Management.”

With a blurb by Vice President Kashim Shettima and a foreword written by the President of NIPR, Dr. Ike Neliaku, the book highlights well-coordinated PR approaches in leadership and management.

Key aspects covered in the literature include how press coverage and media engagement created required awareness and sensitisation of customs reforms. Similarly, the effect of regular engagement with stakeholders in facilitating interagency collaboration and earning public support is also highlighted. Organised special events through lively interactions and fruitful deliberations have been valuable in promoting the new legislation and other service efforts.

The book emphasises other strategies for engagement and communication during crises and recognises the effectiveness of third-party narratives. It further focuses on primary PR tools in its twelve chapters, such as media relations, event management, crisis communication, stakeholder engagement, press release writing, social media, lobbying decision-makers, corporate social responsibility (CSR), reputation management, in-house publications, employee relations, and media monitoring.

In less than a year in office, through his trade facilitation measures, including 24-hour port decongestion/clearance and removal of multiple checkpoints with dedicated import and export terminals, the Customs Service under Adeniyi has achieved an unprecedented revenue collection of 75%, compared to the previous year.

A humble and detribalised Nigerian, Adeniyi has demonstrated inspirational leadership that motivates staff across all levels and backgrounds to strive for excellence and make sacrifices in the nation’s service. His selfless approach has created a culture of unity and dedication, inspiring others to work towards a common goal of serving the national interest.

His anti-smuggling campaign efforts, through strengthening collaborations, have also led to massive seizures of wildlife products, deadly weapons, and hard drugs, among other contrabands that are injurious to the economy and life of the people.

Adeniyi’s groundbreaking communication approach and proactive strategies have significantly influenced public perception and showcased the tangible benefits of effective PR strategies for excellence. His visionary leadership has transformed the Customs Service, restored trust and elevated its reputation. His exemplary model of effective PR at the management level has the potential to inspire future leaders to harness the power of strategic communication, leaving a lasting legacy in the industry.

The accomplishments of the customs service under Tinubu’s administration are quite obvious, as the book will be unveiled at the forthcoming annual Economic Confidential Summit in Abuja next month.

Yushau A. Shuaib
Author Award Winning Crisis Communication Strategies
www.YASHuaib.com[email protected]

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