COL.HAMEED ALI, RTD., COMPTROLLER GENERAL, NIGERIA CUSTOMS SERVICE.
SMUGGLING: CUSTOMS CAN NOT EXONORATE ITSELF FROM COMPLICITY —– APFFLON
BY Mcanthony Onuoha
THE recent invasion of some warehouses and markets in the South-West region by the Nigeria Customs Service Strike Force has been roundly condemned by Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics in Nigeria (APFFLON).
The advocacy group through its National President, Otunba Frank Ogunojemite, described the raid by The Nigeria Customs as an indictment on their part saying that the revenue collectors have been playing the ostrich.
Briefing newsmen in Ikeja, Lagos Secretariat of the association, Ogunojemite accused the organization of complicity, saying that no consignment finds its way into the country without the involvement of Customs personnel.
According to a report by one of the online publications,it was disclosed that the Strike Force Unit swooped on some warehouses and markets in Lagos and Ogun States. trucking away over 1,930 bags of 50kg rice alleged to have been smuggled in by traders.
Ahmadu Bello Shuaibu, Co-ordinator of the Strike Force claimed that the action was to buttress the policy of the Federal Government in boosting local production of rice and create jobs.
Shuaibu, who was bitter about the high rate of cargoes that are falsely declared at the ports in other to evade Customs duty and levy, said that the unit generated N708million in the last two weeks.
However, APFFLON, during the press briefing accused the Nigeria Customs of aiding and abating smuggling. The Association pointed out that 80% of goods that flood the Nigeria markets and warehouses are goods released by officers and men of the Nigeria Customs Service.
Although the Co-ordinator of the CG Strike Force pointed out that based on the proactive measures by the Unit, smugglers have found it difficult to move smuggled foreign rice from the border in large quantity.
But the National President of APFFLON, who vehemently condemned the action, said that Customs clandestinely collect money from importers to release contraband goods after which they move into their warehouses to cart away same, describing the action as underhandedness.
In his words,”the height of corruption we witness in every sector of the economy is amazing. How would Customs exonorate themselves of complicity in all these. The so called foreign rice and contraband goods that flood our markets do come in either through the land borders or the seaports; none passes underground”.
So, if Customs due to greed and love of money compromise professionalism and allow most of them to find their ways into our markets, and come back to paint pictures of patriotism and diligence, l think that’s a high level of hypocrisy”.
Continuing, the National President of APFFLON, said that most of the smuggling activities that take place in the country on daily basis wouldn’t have been carried out successfully without the involvement of personnel of the Nigeria Customs. Adding that ,” though, the Customs have the rights to swoop on any spot to seize contraband goods, or query its source, but they should be thorough in their duty and always avoid complicity”.
The Association called on the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hammed Ali, Rtd.,to review the diligence and ethical standards as well as the level of patriotism of personnel at cargo entry points to avoid continued embarrassment of the country and disgrace to his leadership.