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Customs

Customs is understaffed, underfunded— Reps

Leke Abejide, the Chairman of House Committee on Customs

—-approves N369bn as 2022 budget

Eyewitness reporter

The House of Representatives has disclosed that the Nigeria Customs Service is grossly understaffed and underfunded to effectively and efficiently discharge its functions.
Leke Abejide, the Chairman of the House Committee on Customs, who disclosed this in Abuja Tuesday,  disclosed that the service ought to have 30,000 staff instead of the 15, 349 officers in the service.
The lawmaker further explained that the lack of financial autonomy has made it hard for customs to recruit sufficient personnel.
Consequently, the House of Representatives, on Tuesday, approved N369 billion as the budget of the Nigeria Customs Service (NSC) for 2022,

“Nigeria Customs Service currently has 15,349 officers instead of 30,000 Officers needed for the Service to function optimally.”The lawmakers also approved N369 billion as the budget of the NSC for 2022, even as, they sought to abolish the appointment of the Comptroller General of Customs from outside Service.

The report of Mr. Abejide’s committee was considered by the Committee of Supply chaired by the Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase (APC, Plateau).

A total of N214.3 billion was approved for capital expenditure, N108.8 billion for personnel costs and N45.8 billion for overhead.

The funds are to be sourced as follows; N151.8 billion from seven percent cost of collection, N14.9 billion from NSC VAT share and N60.1billion from 60 percent share of the comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS).

Other sources are N114.2 billion from retained earnings and N27.8 billion of share of excess target.

The lawmaker also repealed the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) and re-enacted new legislation in its place.

The bill seeks to make it mandatory for the Comptroller General of the Service to be appointed within the ranks of the officers of the agency.

This will end the appointment of non-custom officers to that position if the bill eventually becomes law.

The current CGC, Col.Hameed Ali(rtd), a retired army colonel, was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.

Col.Ali’s relationship with the federal parliament has been frosty, and it peaked during the controversy over uniforms.

The 8th Senate had asked  Ali to wear the uniform of the NSC to appear before the lawmakers but he declined with the argument that the invitation did not indicate that he should wear a uniform.

“My not wearing a uniform does not breach any law. No law, to my knowledge, compels me to wear a uniform. No law says in doing my service, I have to wear a uniform.”

The lawmakers, therefore, ejected  Ali from the chamber following a motion to that effect.

On Tuesday, the Committee of the Whole of the House considered the report on the bill and passed it.

The sponsor of the bill, Leke Abejide (ADC, Kogi), who is also the Chairman of the House Committee on Customs, while speaking on the report, said this is the first major reform of the law in 63 years.

He noted that the existing act is obsolete and cannot meet the needs of customs in the digital age. He added that the language used in crafting the law is also obsolete.

On the appointment of a CGC, Mr Abejide said there is a need for legislative input into the appointment of Comptroller General of Customs similar to other organisations like Inspector-General of Police, Nigeria Immigration Service, and the Service Chiefs.

 He argued that the move is a matter of national security.

He explained that all laws relating to customs and excise will be collated into a single legislation.

In addition, the bill seeks to eradicate the seven percent cost of collection used to fund the budget of customs. In its place, the bill is seeking four percent of Free on Board for funding of the agency.

Explaining the rationale for the changes to the funding of the agency, Mr Abejide said the existing seven percent cost of collection is not sufficient to fund the salaries and benefits of officers, explaining that the four percent FOB is international best practice.

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Customs

Alleged cross- border smuggling of fuel: Fate of detained Customs officer uncertain — summoned, detained in Abuja

Owombo Segun John, the detained Customs officer
The Eyewitness reporter
The Customs officer, Owombo Segun John, who in a viral video last week, squealed  on alleged cross-border smuggling of refined petroleum products, with alleged official connivance, has been moved to the Customs headquarters in Abuja on the order of the Comptroller General of Customs,  Col. Hammed Ali(rtd) rt
According to Customs sources, the Customs officer, Owombo Segun, reportedly intercepted some fuel-laden tankers which allegedly wanted to cross to Cameroon, on Wednesday, November 2nd, 2022 but released the viral video of the incident on the 9th November, the following Wednesday.
Due to the viral video in which the customs officer alleged official connivance and threat to life, he was promptly arrested on the order of his supervising Controller Adesanmi Omiye in charge of Federal Operations Unit(FOU) Zone D, Adamawa, where the officer was attached to.
However, the source claimed that the officer, who has already been detained by his supervising Controller since November 9th, 2020, having been adjudged as of unsound mind by the Customs authority, was transferred to the Abuja headquarters on Monday, November 14th, 2022 on the order of the CGC.
Confirming the transfer of the officer to Abuja, DC Timi Bomodi, the Customs National Public Relations Officer, said this was to conduct further investigation and possibly to meet with the CGC while in detention.
“Yes, he has been transferred to Abuja for further investigation” declared Bomodi.
He queried the motive of the officer involved in the episode, adding that further investigation will reveal his real reason.
“I want the public to interrogate the motive of the officer and disregard his allegations of threat to life.
”The incident where he arrested the tankers drivers who have valid documents to show they wanted to discharge their products to the petrol stations within the Nigerian territory, happened on Wednesday, November 2nd but he did the video on November 9th, 2022.
“If they wanted to eliminate him as he claimed, he could have been killed between the 2nd when the incident happened and the 9th, when he released the video.
”He also failed to report to his supervisor of his discovery, if he had a genuine motive or he is of sound mind.
”Why didn’t he also report to the headquarters his findings?
”Neither did he report to any of the security agencies which any rational thinking- officer could have done in such a circumstance.
”He didn’t take any of these rational options of reporting the case but chose to make a video of the incident in incoherent words while he was half naked” declared Bomodi.
He said that the initial investigation into the matter has revealed so much information which he claimed will shock the public when it is released.
Bomodi said he could not say anything about the fate of the officer until the final investigation which will determine his real motive and fate
However, one of the siblings of the detained officer dismissed customs’ claim that Owombo Segun is of unsound mind
“My brother is a very brilliant man. Someone that was posted to Adamawa and has been working there since, how can you now say he is insane? That is a lie. They are just trying to cover up.”
“The claim that he was found naked is also not true. He told me that immediately after he released the video, he was attacked by some customs officers and tanker drivers. He even told me that if he is allowed, he has some evidence to back up his claim,” he added.
Bomodi however wondered why the said officer, whom he said has been operating for the past two years at Malabo Checkpoint on Belel Road, Adamawa state,  has not come out with such findings which he bandied in the viral video.
“The state in which this officer depicted himself in this video, his comportment and his speech suggests a level of incoherence associated with people of an unstable mind.
” Indeed, his actions led to his immediate withdrawal by the Controller Federal Operations Unit Zone ‘D’, who instructed his detention pending medical evaluation” the customs authority had retorted in a statement last week when the embarrassing video hit the public space.
A highly placed Customs source claimed that the fate of the incarcerated officer now hangs in the balance as he may be eased out of the service for the viral video which he said thoroughly embarrassed the Customs top hierarchy.
“Unless providence intervenes in his favour, the officer may be on his way out of the service” the source declared
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Customs

Customs demonises officer amidst claims of official complicity in smuggling of petroleum products across border

Comptroller Adesanmi Omiye
The Eyewitness reporter
The Nigeria Customs Service has described as an “unstable mind” one of his patrol officers attached to the Federal Operations Unit Zone D in Adamawa over his outlandish claims which indicted a customs controller of compromise in the smuggling of petroleum products across the Nigeria-Cameroon border.
The unnamed officer, in a viral video, showing fully-loaded tankers carrying Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as Petrol along Nigeria- Cameroon border, claimed that the products were being smuggled across the border to Cameroon.
The officer, speaking in Yoruba, further claimed that after he stopped the tankers with smuggled products, he was allegedly summoned by a customs Controller whose name he didn’t mention, claiming that he was being threatened for daring to stop the illicit act.
While pouring vituperation on the unnamed Controller, he said he has spent 11 years at the borders, stopping the smuggling of Nigerian oil across the borders, but was never rewarded with juicy postings to the choice commands in Lagos ports or Seme border.
Mr Adesanmi Omiye is the Customs Comptroller in charge of the zone.
Reacting to the embarrassing viral video, the Customs Service dismissed the claims of the officer whom it said was of an unstable mind.
In the statement signed by the National Public Relations Officer of Customs, Deputy Comptroller Timi Bomodi, the said officer has since been arrested and awaiting medical evaluation.
 “Nigeria Customs Service is compelled to respond to a recent video making the rounds on social media.

” This video depicts a half-clad individual recording himself while claiming to have arrested trucks carrying premium motor spirit across the border as an officer of Nigeria Customs Service.

“The facts are as follows; the person in the video is indeed an officer of Nigeria Customs Service, and he is currently attached to the Federal Operations Unit Zone D in Adamawa.

“This incident occurred on Wednesday 2nd of November 2022 at Malabo Checkpoint on Belel Road, Adamawa state.

” It is important to note that 55 kilometers separate this location from the nearest border.

“Between the place where this incident occurred and the border, there are fully operational petrol stations.

” Preliminary investigations indicate that the drivers on these trucks were in possession of duly signed product distribution sheets for consignments allocated by PPMC for filling stations within that vicinity.

” As vehicles in transit, they are considered still to be well within city limits and therefore can neither be accused of nor arrested for transporting goods across the border.

“All our officers are compelled by a strict dress code to not only be in uniform while on duty, but to adorn their name tags for easy identification by members of the public.

“The state in which this officer depicted himself in this video, his comportment and his speech suggests a level of incoherence associated with people of an unstable mind.

” Indeed, his actions led to his immediate withdrawal by the Controller Federal Operations Unit Zone ‘D’, who instructed his detention pending medical evaluation.

“The NCS seriously frowns at any action that is inimical to the economic well-being of our nation.

” Our battle with smuggling has been unequivocal and unyielding. Our checkpoints are usually manned by a team of officers all of whom are assigned specific responsibilities.

“The levels of checks and counter-checks created as part of the NCS strategic enforcement initiative have made it extremely difficult for breaches to occur.

“Nigeria Customs Service wants to assure members of the public of the commitment of its officers and men to securing our borders.

“We ask for your understanding in this endeavor even as we seek your prayers for those whose health and well-being may have been compromised by stress while carrying out their onerous assignment” the statement concluded.
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Customs

Ember months:  Lagos ports record low cargo clearance activities 

—as cash crunch hits importers 
The Eyewitness reporter
The usual frenzied tempo in goods clearance during the ember months has disappeared from the Lagos ports due to a cash crunch among importers.
Usually this time of ember months, there is always high frequency of clearance of goods at the ports by importers and their agents but such enthusiasm has considerably waned as fewer numbers of importers who could surmount the economic hardship coupled with the astronomical increase in Customs dues and tariffs are able to take their goods out of the port.
Curiously, the customs commands are posting huge revenues amidst this tight fiscal policy of the government.
For example, the Apapa Customs command, the flagship Command of the service which accounts for about two third of the annual revenue of the service, last week announced the revenue of N790.630billion within the first 9 months of the year(January- September).
The Area Controller of the command, Comptroller Yusuf Malanta Ibrahim promised that the command will likely gross a trillion naira in revenue at the end of the year.
Then where does this huge revenue come from amidst sluggish clearing activities at the ports?
It was gathered that the recent increase in the Customs exchange rate by the federal government boosted the monthly earnings of the customs.
It could be recalled that for yet another time in September, the Customs exchange rate was jerked up from $409 to $422.3, an increment of $13.3.
Comptroller Yusuf, while confirming the impact of the increase in the customs exchange rate on the revenue profile of the command, also declared that the increment has a negative impact on the clearing activities.
“The increment in the customs exchange rate has also led to an increase in our revenue” the Apapa Customs chief declared.
He however confessed that the increase in the exchange rate was an additional overhead cost for importers.
“It is an unexpected increase”
Explaining why the hustle and bustle in clearing activities during the ember months are lacking this year, Comptroller Yusuf said importers are hit by a cash crunch as they could not even procure loans from the banks to clear their goods.
” The increase in the exchange rate has become another overhead cost for importers as it is unexpected.
“Prediction of the market is becoming increasingly difficult for the to make.
“However, it depends on the market response.
” If the market forces respond positively to the increase, it is fine, if it doesn’t, that’s another challenge.
“That is where a good businessman will sit down and make an informed analysis between the operating environment and corporate environment where he operates” Comptroller Yusuf declared.
He however said that the cargo is there at the Port but the rate of clearing them is slow.
“The pressure is on the cargothrouput . The cargo is there.
”When you look at the Port, there is so much cargo but the issue is importers are finding it difficult to clear these cargoes because of lack of funds.
” They find it difficult to obtain loans from the banks to clear them, they are finding it difficult to get the right response from the market forces.
”Some of them have to clear part of their cargo, sell them to get money and use the amount to clear the rest of the cargo.
”This is why the cargo clearance exercise is lower now in this ember months as against other previous ember months
because importers lack funds to carry out this clearing process” the Apapa Customs command boss explained.
Conversely, the customs commands are grossing more revenue because, according to Comptroller Yusuf, the men and officers of the command are tirelessly committed to ensuring that all revenue leakages are mitigated as well as sustaining the level of compliance by importers and other stakeholders in the clearance value chain.
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