Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
Barely a week after it dismissed 17 junior officers for offences ranging from drug addiction to certificate forgery, theft as well as playing truancy, no fewer than 29 senior officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) have been dismissed for various acts of alleged gross misconduct.
The 29 dismissed officers are among 44 senior officers, who were punished for actions capable of compromising national economy and security, the NCS said in a statement issued on Thursday by Deputy Comptroller/Public Relations Officer, Mr. Wale Adeniyi.
According to the statement, ten other officers were retired from Service, while the appointment of one was terminated just as four officers were given written warnings to be of better conduct.
Four other officers who were investigated and tried for some offences were exonerated, the NCS said, adding that four of the officers who got the hammer were of the rank of Deputy-Comptroller of Customs, while five were Assistant-Comptrollers.
Also involved were seven Chief Superintendents of Customs and four Superintendents, among others.
The Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hammed Ali (rtd) had upon his assumption of duties warned that the Service would not compromise on corruption and indiscipline among the officers corps.
The statement noted that in line with this, the structure and process for investigation of offences was strengthened to handle cases reported promptly and professionally.
“We will give all officers fair hearing in line with the principle of natural justice. We will however insist that sanctions be punitive, not only to match the offence committed, but to serve as deterrent to others”, the CGC was quoted as saying at a management meeting convened to consider the report of the disciplinary committee that investigated the cases.
According to the statement, the process leading to the actions taken on the officers was painstaking in line with the Public Service Rules (PSR). All the officers were served with Queries indicating offences committed, before they made appearances before the Special Investigation Committee. The Committee’s recommendation was discussed and approved by the Customs Management.
The recommendation was thereafter referred to the Presidency for ratification, in the absence of a substantive Board for the Nigeria Customs Service. All the officers affected in the exercise have been communicated accordingly.
The Comptroller-General has therefore, warned officers that punitive sanctions will continue to be used to discipline officers who refuse to embrace change.
Officers affected in this exercise were said to have been investigated for involvement in improper examination and release of containers without proper documentation and payment of duties, illegal release of goods in advance before the arrival of vessels, collection of bribe to release prohibited items, release of export prohibitions, fraudulent sale of seized items, use of fake certificates and bribery to secure auctioned goods.