The Customs Area Controller (CAC), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Eastern Marine Command (EMC), Comptroller Ajiya M. Masaya has said that he is tackling headlong the numerous challenges he met in the command since he took over the reins of administration four months ago.
EMC like its counterpart in the West, Western Marine Command, has a mandate to curtail the activities of smugglers in the waterways located in the Eastern part of the country.
These challenges include the fact that the command shares its operational base with other government agencies in the Federal Secretariat, Port Harcourt, Rivers State; lack of office space; absence of an armoury; paucity of arms and ammunitions; militancy in its areas of operation and the daring tactics of smugglers using the waterways.
In an exclusive chat with THISDAY, Masaya who has served in different Customs formations across the country and acquired cognate experience over the years stated that the fact that the command shares its operational headquarters with other government agencies in the Federal Government encumbers EMC in its operations.
His words: â€œThe Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is a para-military organisation. Our present operational base in the Federal Secretariat where we share facilities with several other government agencies is a big challenge. That is one of the reasons we do not have an armoury because in the present environment, we do not have total control over the number of persons trooping in and out of the premises daily. It is not only the number of people that is the issue, there are certain kinds of persons that we would have turned back from the main entrance but you cannot do so in the Federal Secretariat due to the fact that we share the premises with so many other government agencies. We would have preferred an operational base outside the Federal Secretariat but for now, that is yet to be realised.
â€œWe do not have an armoury in this command. We borrow arms and ammunitions from sister commands. Militancy and insurgency is also a challenge in the delivery of our mandate because we are under constant attack. For instance, Borno State is under the jurisdiction of this command but presently it is a â€˜no go areaâ€™ because of insurgency. The terroristsâ€™ activities in Borno State have not allowed us to deliver on our statutory roles and responsibilities in that part of the country. The fact that some of our officers and men cannot swim is also an issue to contend with. In spite of the provisions of life jackets, some of our personnel still get drown in the waterways during operationsâ€.
The Customs Chief assured that in spite of the challenges he met on ground, he has what it takes to tackle them headlong.
He expressed optimism that with the support of the present management of the NCS led by its Comptroller General, Colonel Ibrahim Hameed Ali (retired), the command would succeed in its quest to address the challenges facing it.
â€œOfficers and men are now happy as a result of the facelift of their offices. We do not have our own barracks but we share in the ones designated for other sister commands. This is due to the fact that we work hand-in-hand with themâ€, he said.
The CAC stated that the mandate of the EMC is to compliment the efforts of other commands in Zone B and C in the NCS.
â€œThere are no fewer than 11 states in the jurisdiction of the Eastern Marine Command. Our duty is to ensure than prohibited items are not brought into the country through the waterways. We have seven out stations. They are Edo/Delta (Warri and Sapele); Bayelsa (Yenagoa); Rivers (Abonema and Onne); Akwa Ibom (Oron); Cross River (Calabar and Mufu); Adamawa/Taraba (River Benue) and Borno/Yobe (Baga and Lake Chad).
â€œWe monitor vessels serving the oil and gas industry so that they do not use them to smuggle arms into the country. It is through these means that we intercept vessels brought into the country in the name of temporary importation (TI). I must tell you, we are up to the taskâ€, he added.