Dikko, the Czar of Intelligence in the Nigeria Customs Service


C-G-C Abdullahi

By every indication and from widespread attestations, the administration of Alhaji Dikko Inde Abdullahi has headlined unprecedented revolution in the history of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS). From gigantic infrastructural development, capacity building and general boosting of the morale of the rank and file of the officers and men of the NCS (through salary increment, staff trainings in various parts of the world, promotions, large-scale recruitments and others) stifling of the hitherto nightmarish smuggling rings, unmatched revenue drive through use of hi-tech measures, high-yielding collaborations with international Customs bodies and agencies, inter-agency collaboration back here in Nigeria, and general sanitization of the NCS among many other feats, Abdullahi has been hailed as a reformer.

Five eventful years down the line from August 18, 2009 when he mounted the saddle of Nigeria’s biggest non-oil revenue generating agency, the Nigerian economy and nation has not remained the same.

Among the plethora of initiatives and new insights brought aboard in the running of the agency is a new, elevated and effective intelligence gathering mechanism as revealed in this article as the good works of the C-G-C comes under review as part of the fifth anniversary commemoration.

From 2009, the intelligence department in the NCS received more attention in the form of additional resources and authority in order to advance the aims of the service. There was the augmentation of intelligence operations, the operatives as well as key intelligence issues leading to new trends in intelligence sourcing, development and consumption comparable to trends in the global Customs family.


International collaborations for excellence- Signing of agreement with the USA, 2013

Sophisticated risk identification techniques and intelligence facilitated Customs operations. From 2009, there was priority in the NCS’s risk identification and intelligence practices as trends in the new Integrated Cargo System (ICS). This was achieved by re- designing the intelligence system, re-training the intelligence officer (IO) and a detailed technical work and review system enabling intelligence to be the framework of successful predictions. Intelligence supported Air Cargo, Marine Cargo, Free Trade Zone Operations, Trans Border Operations, among others.

There was the strengthening of liaison with related intelligence agencies, EFCC, ICPC, CBN and DSS. This involved data exchange and cleansing, better automation of intelligence, exchange of operatives, retrieval of information and a better handling of intelligence.


The forgoing led to the outsourcing of intelligence activities with a resultant transparency in service delivery. There was increase in skilled analysts, technical expertise in key intelligence issues especially e-intelligence. Such areas included covert surveillance and covert surveillance techniques, remove photographic surveillance, fraud examination, simulated situations, use of tracking position, signals intelligence collections among other techniques.


Capacity development, an important step in NCS’s intelligence gathering system

However, the NCS’s information and intelligence as in most other national Customs are constrained by legislation governing the scope of information that can legally be held by operatives. This is especially because of the intrusive techniques used in the collection of data especially in respect of classified information or infringement on the rights of the stake holders. The Nigeria Customs operatives versed in cyber forensic operations require the appropriate level of clearance to process some information collected where the information is classified. Bearing in mind the legislation limiting the usage of information obtained by some covert electronic devices, the NCS faces some constraints. However, despite the most powerful devices available, the Humint (Human Intelligence) – who possesses the human mind-remains the core of intelligence in the Nigeria Customs Service. This is the area that the current administration has trained, re- trained, equipped, and supported to carry out the work of intelligence for the service. Having undergone the best intelligence training, the operatives have been able to discern patterns of information, extract from a flood of correct, incorrect and sometime deliberately misleading information ( disinformation)


Pillars of Support

There is outsourcing of intelligence activity including contracting operatives from sister organisations for technical expertise. This is a global trend as done even in USA, UK, SOUTH KOREA in other to perform diverse sets of functions from crafting intelligence requirements to delivering report on operations to management. Equally, the Service has deployed its trained operatives to provide technical

assistance to bodies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) in covert operations. With a combination of experience gathered from sister organisations deployed to and from training in difference countries, the Nigeria Customs Service has now built a pool (cell) of officers who could reach out to course mates in and outside the country for exchange of key intelligence. These operatives are proficient in economic and financial issues like money laundering investigation, tracing of illicit funds and capital flight. This has led to contribution to economic intelligence. The service therefore works in close collaboration not in isolation with other agencies in intelligence matters.


Custom Aircraft

It is therefore very possible to get intelligence from the ports of loading of goods through a foreign partner or a colleague in the same professional body. Without dwelling on instances, for classified reasons, this collaboration has brought a lot of benefits to the service.

We expect more successful intelligence from the single window system whereby relevant risks will be urgently identified leading to several Customs referrals of weapons and expired drugs to the relevant agencies.


In constant charge


Abdullahi D. I (CFR), himself an economist, commercial fraud examiner and investigator has harnessed all available techniques to evolve a structure for an improved customs intelligence. He has moved the operations of intelligence to a higher level of providing economic intelligence for strategic purposes of national planning.

The Service has made significant progress in actualising or in the process of actualising the following hi-tech intelligence milestone:

  • Detector dog programme as available in china.
  • A forensic laboratory to enhance revenue as well as security. this has already been set up at the service headquarters
  • Computer forensic
  • Border protection strategy including Close Circuit TV (CCTV) for covert surveillance)
  • Anti corruption/ transparency initiative – already operational at the headquaters and zonal offices.
  • Customs counter terrorism capacity

Developing a strategy as is done in South Australia to detect prohibited goods purchased through the internet. This works with online market place leader e-bay which monitors key areas of the site to prevent sale of goods prohibited in Nigeria.

The CGC has already upgraded the communication infrastructure in most locations of the Service. The state – of – the – art dual view parallel X- ray system currently used in our scanning sites has increased the container examination rate to quickly alert the service to avoid losses in revenue or security breaches.


We have avoided citing real cases where improved intelligence contributes to achievements in the Service and also avoided details employed for such particular intelligence gathering owing to classified reasons. However, we have attempted a critique of developments in the Nigeria Customs Service intelligence since 2009. From the analyses, it is clear that:-

  • There was a sustained and a deliberate effort to improve the operations of intelligence along current and electronic trends.
  • There was a clear understanding and purpose by the direct authority namely, the C-G-C, to utilise intelligence for pragmatic economic and security reasons.
  • There was a great deal of achievements in the core areas of the service, in the security of personnel, an enhancement of the image of Nigeria Customs Service from the intelligence provided within the period under review.
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