James Emejo in Abuja
Citing corruption and various acts of gross misconduct, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) yesterday said it has relieved 29 senior officers of their duties.
It said the dismissed officers are among 44 senior officers who were punished for actions capable of compromising national economy and security.
Ten other officers were retired from service, while the appointment of one officer was terminated.
Also affected in the purge were four officers who were however, given written warnings to be of better conduct while another four officers who were investigated and tried for some offences were exonerated.
THISDAY gathered that four of the officers who got the hammer were of the rank of Deputy-Comptroller of Customs, while five others were Assistant-Comptroller as well as seven Chief Superintendents of Customs and four Superintendents among others.
The move was in keeping with the warning of the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hammed Ali (rtd) who had at his assumption of office made it clear that the service would not compromise on corruption and indiscipline among the officers corps.
Following his stance on corruption, the structure and process for investigation of offences was strengthened to handle cases reported promptly and professionally.
The CGC had at a management meeting convened to consider the report of the disciplinary committee which investigated the cases said: “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.”
A statement issued by the Customs Deputy Comptroller/Public Relations Officer, Mr. Wale Adeniyi, said all affected officers were given fair hearing.
It said: “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 warned officers that punitive sanctions would continue to be used to discipline officers who refuse to embrace change.”
Continuing, the statement said: “Officers affected in this exercise were 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.”
Only last week, 17 Junior officers were similarly dismissed from the service for offences like bribery, drug addiction, use of fake certificates and absence from duty.