Customs Moves to Bar Retired Officers from Direct Clearing of Cargoes

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Eromosele Abiodun

The Nigeria Customs high command has taken steps to bar retired officers and men of the service from engaging in direct clearing of cargoes at the nation’s seaports and borders.

THISDAY investigation revealed that the move was sequel to barrage of petitions especially by indigenous licensed clearing agents and freight forwarders, who alleged that foreigners and retired officers and men of the service have taken over their jobs, resulting in closure of many of such clearing firms with the attendant loss of job opportunities for teeming Nigerian youths.

THISDAY gathered that the office of the Comptroller General of the NCS, Col Hameed Ali (RTD.) is awash with series of letters of complaints and petitions, which alleged that some retired officers and men of the service engage in cargo clearing business, taking undue advantage of the cordial relationships that exist between them and their former colleagues in the service.

THISDAY checks also revealed that the NCS is currently considering the most appropriate actions to be adopted in weeding these retired officers and men out of the unethical business.

The NCS, THISDAY learnt, is weighing several options, such as baring the affected retired officers and men from accessing the Customs Processing Centre (CPC), which houses the Automated System for Customs Data ASCUDA++, which is the information communication technology (ICT) hub spread across all the customs commands for the clearing of cargo.

Another option, according to a competent source at a Customs command, will be to block any clearing licence used by retired officers and men not minding whether such licences belong to them directly or sub-let for a fee by a licensed clearing agent. These measures, if implemented, will serve as a deterrent to others that may want to borrow from friends or sub-let for a fee to the officers.

Stakeholders have, over a long period, argued that allowing retired officers and men, who know the nitty-gritty of cargo valuation and other clearing processes might compromise the system, especially given the rapport that exists between the retired officers and men with their serving colleagues, which might lead to massive loss of government revenue.

The National Public Relations Officer of the NCS, Joseph Attah admitted in a chat with journalists that the office of the CG has been inundated with complaints and petitions by clearing agents alleging that retired officers and men have taken over their jobs.

He, however, pointed out that the service had yet to take any decision on most appropriate way to address the issue, saying that the management of the service was not comfortable with such complaints and petitions and would address them accordingly.

Meanwhile, some concerned stakeholders have argued that the decision by retired officers and men to resort to clearing business might be a reflection of the poor welfare package offered by the service at retirement, which might not cater for their needs and those of their family members.

This, they added, might have necessitated resorting to other sources of income by such officers and men to augment their income while in retirement.

The stakeholders also noted that many of the retired ones that engage in cargo clearing are usually those that retire at the very lower cadre like below the rank of Superintendent, arguing that those that retire from the rank of Assistant Comptrollers hardly engage in such businesses at least directly.