• Reads riot act at tension-soaked meeting with service brass
The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (retd) on Friday evening said corrupt officers and men of the agency will go to jail.
He also said all Customs Area Controllers, heads of units and departments will be accountable for infraction dealing with false declaration, deliberate misapplication of the tariff, undervaluation and concealment.
Ali read the Riot Act at his first meeting with all officers and men at the Customs Headquarters, in Abuja.
The meeting was a closed door session and the text of Ali’s address was kept under wraps because of the tension which enveloped the meeting.
Although there was panic among the top brass of the service, Ali said he will reward hard work in the same manner he will punish offenders.
He said: “Since I took over yesterday (Thursday), I have been receiving briefing notes to enhance my understanding of the Nigeria Customs Service. I have articulated some ideas to start with, and I have found it necessary to share these ideas with you. These ideas shall be the guiding principle and platform for a smooth takeoff.
“First and foremost, it is important that we know where we are going. We can start by ensuring that we pick up the mantle of Mr. President’s policy thrust. Therefore, in conjunction with you, moving with you and fighting with you we will fight corruption and restore discipline through attitudinal orientation for effective service delivery.
“However, I must stress this for emphasis. I will not tolerate indiscipline. I will not tolerate corruption. I have zero tolerance for corruption.
“Considering my military background, I believe punishment must be punitive for others to see it as a deterrent. Therefore, as an officer of the Nigeria Customs Service, if you are caught involved in corruption, I am not only going to dismiss you, I will make sure I prosecute and jail you. That is basic!”
Besides the war against corruption in the service, Ali reeled out 17 other agenda to reposition the Customs service.
He added: “We will optimally achieve the core statutory functions of the service, of revenue collection, trade compliance, and facilitation, anti-smuggling activities, national security amongst others, based on the service motto of “Honesty and Justice”.
“We will commensurately further enhance the welfare of officers and men for maximum service delivery.
“We will ensure the strict application of Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) CAP-C45 Laws of Federation of Nigeria (LFN) as amended 2004, Customs codes, Extant Laws and Federal government’s circulars in all customs operations, through training and re-training of officers and men on how to apply them in their day-to-day operations.
“We will address all anomalies manifest in recruitment, training, posting and promotion of officers and men of the service.
“All customs officers and men shall adhere strictly to the Customs clearance, guidelines and procedures. All Customs Area Controllers, head of units and departments shall be held accountable for all established infractions to do with false declaration, deliberate misapplication of the tariff, undervaluation and concealment.”
The new Comptroller-General directed that “All Customs area controllers, heads of Units and Departments shall now send a weekly report on all proven cases of false declarations, deliberate misapplication of tariff, undervaluation, concealment and seizures with full compliments of action taken to the office of the Comptroller-General and all Customs Area Controllers, heads of units and departments will be accountable for infractions in their areas of operations.”
He added, “The extant procedures of disposal of seizures and overtime cargoes would be comprehensively reviewed to address the current abuse. A public statement shall be issued as soon as the review exercise is complete.”
Col Ali promised an overhaul of the Legal and Investigation Units of the Service as well strengthening the service to meet the maximum demands of the emerging challenges.
According to him, “The welfare of officers and men shall remain uppermost in my mind, in the same manner; officers with corrupt tendencies shall not be tolerated. The Customs training colleges in Lagos and Kano and the Academy in Abuja shall be further upgraded to meet the current demand.”
He directed that the trading public, including Importers, Excise traders, Exporters and Agents are expected to comply strictly with the extant Laws, rules and regulations.
Also, “The service shall work hand in hand with other critical Agencies including but not limited to the Army, Navy, Air force, Central Bank of Nigeria, DSS, EFCC, ICPC, Immigration, FAAN, NDLEA, NAFDAC, SON, Ports Security, Plant/Animal Quarantine, and NESREA.
“The service shall also strengthen its existing relationship with commercial Banks, Terminal Operators, Shipping lines, Shipping Agents and various registered and recognized clearing Associations and all the maritime correspondents of the press at our areas of operation.
He pledged the service’s commitment to International Organisations such as ECOWAS, World Customs Organisations (WCO), World Trade Organisations (WTO) and other International Agencies under the United Nations.
Ali promised to run a 24-hour policy for legitimate complaints from traders in order to ensure quality service delivery.
“The office of the Comptroller-General is open 24/7 to the legitimate complaint from members of the trading public in the spirit of optimising quality service delivery,” he added.