The Nigerian Customs Service is still a nest of corruption, nepotism and other sharp practices despite the much acclaimed cleansing of the agency by the current leadership.
Vices such as promotion and sack of officers on ethnic basis, release of seized vehicles and other goods to friends and families of top senior offices of the NCS are still rampant.
Serving and some recently disengaged officers who spoke on the management of the NCS, declared that Nigerians were yet to be told of the evils which are perpetrated against personnel from the Southern part of the country.
Some of them claimed that it is only in the NCS that officers who should have been sacked are the ones that prepare the list of personnel to be disengaged because they have godfathers in the organisation.
One of the recently sacked senior officers with anger and frustration written all over him, revealed that their sack was “ridiculous and driven by victimisation because we did nothing to warrant such treatment.”
He alleged that “those who recommended our sack are those who ought to be relieved of their jobs if this is a country where the cry of the marginalised and victimised are investigated and culprits punished.”
The sacked officer who would not want his name mentioned because of victimization said, “some of us who were affected have contacted our lawyers to see the possibility of taking the matter to the Presidency and the National Assembly and maybe the court if those channels failed to reverse our sudden removal.”
According to him, the NCS stinks and “this has been the case for the past two decades.”
He alleged that some of them who were affected by the recent sack actually did nothing serious. “Some of us are victims of false allegations; some are seen as threats to their interest. Some are known to have a lot of information about their dubious deals at the top level and they think the best way to deal with us is to take us out but we are determined to pursue the matter to any level so as to get justice. Our lawyers are preparing our petition and the public will soon know why we were removed.”
According to another concerned officer, “The NCS needs total cleansing if the country hopes to have a Service that can meet the needs of the country in this modern age.
“I can tell you that corruption walks with four legs in the Service and the people at the helm of affairs at the Ministry of Finance and the Presidency over the time, either pretended as if they are not aware or at most carried out tepid reforms that didn’t achieve anything either because they benefited from the rot or are afraid of those who back the CGs at various times.”
The officer claimed that most of the past Comptrollers-General of the NCS used their positions to service their pockets, their friends, associates, and top people in government and family members.
His words: “Most of the cars or goods seized from smugglers or abandoned at the ports are never properly accounted for. Some of the past CGs and very top officers had the habit and tendency to give such items to their friends, family members, politicians, and other categories of people without due process.
“Even when such items are auctioned, they use fronts to corner them and later sold them at open markets and the money given to the officers.”
Further according to the officer, “Those who have connections at the top level of the Service and in government never had their goods seized, no matter how they contravened the law. Even when goods of such people are seized, they would be released in a matter of days on the ‘order from above’.”
He said that Nigeria has been losing a lot of revenue through this method apart from the popular waiver which the public is aware of. “Most of the things I am saying are already known to the public but as an insider, I can confirm that these are the realities,” he added.
On postings and recruitments in the NCS, the officer said that they are corruption personified. “Before this government came in, most recruitments in the Service were done arbitrarily, depending on who approved the exercise and those implementing it. The issue of Federal Character and merit is not followed but top and influential people in government and outside government would send long lists of names and they are recruited, leaving out those who actually merit the jobs.”
The most frustrating, according to him, is the posting and promotions in the NCS.
“Only people with high connections are posted to lucrative locations where they render accounts regularly or are removed.
“The most affected are officers and men from the Southern part of the country who are marginalised because those who had been heading the Service are from the North. Promotions also are done by who you attached yourself to and who brought you into the Service in the first place”, he lamented.
He said that because of these anomalies, officers who have no ‘godfathers’ resort to doing whatever they like at their duty posts. He asked: “What do you expect from this kind of system? This is why officers compromise at different locations because they are not happy with the system.”
The officer said that the nation would have been making a lot of money through the NCS, apart from oil revenue “but the loopholes are left uncovered by the cabal who will never allow the system work well because it makes them stupendously rich.”
Reacting to the matter, Acting Spokesman of the NCS, Assistant-Comptroller, Joseph Attah, described the allegation as no issue. He said the dismissal went through various disciplinary official procedures before actions were recommended and carried out.
He explained that some the officers were acquited, some retired while some were dismissed.
“The allegation is baseless because the dismissal was carried out after series of official disciplinary procedures. There is no question of a certain section of the country being victimised,” he noted.
Recently, the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) said that the NCS, through its conducts portrays itself as the most corrupt agency in Nigeria.
In a statement signed by the General Secretary of NAGAFF, Arthur Igwilo, it said:
“The Nigeria Customs Service arbitrarily gives itself revenue targets officially and unofficially. The official revenue targets are declared publicly, but unofficial revenue targets are for their personal purses. The latter, they flaunt in different ways that manifest, and portray the noble professional paramilitary organisation as the most corrupt in Nigeria and beyond.”
The NCS recently dismissed 29 senior officers over alleged acts of gross misconduct. The dismissed officers were among the 44 senior officers investigated for “acts capable of compromising national economy and security.”