Customs agents in the country have accused the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col Hameed Ali (rtd) of favouring officers of northern origin in postings to head most of the Customs commands across the country.
Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, alleged that promotion of officers under the Customs boss have been lopsided.
On Ali’s three years in office, he said: “Although there have been some improvement in terms of promotion but it is as if the Nigeria Customs Service is just for the northerners. Almost all the Area Commands you go, you see northern officers.
“This is not too good for a government agency. There is need to redesign the NSC such that it will not be a northern service whereby northerners are placed in certain positions. Promotion has to be redistributed to comply with the procedure. What is happening in Customs should be redirected so that people can be placed properly.”
Amiwero, also scored Ali low on performance after three years, saying that the ex-military officer has failed to carry out much needed reforms in the NCS.
He said: “Reforming Customs is not just posting people from one place to the other. I don’t think Customs has been reformed because the tools for reformation are not there; no scanners at the ports, procedures are still archaic, and containers spend more time at the port because of complex alert.
“Customs’ job is about procedure and there are many procedures that are not complied with in terms of convention and agreement. For instance, in Ghana, they have the satellite tracking system and they are also meeting up the challenges of the Single Window. But what do we have here in Nigeria?
“The CG is a stranger as far as Customs is concern. He cannot reform Customs because most of the tools are not there and the procedures he does not know. He is not a seasoned officer. In terms of revenue, are we really having the cargo coming in? What Customs is doing is imposing value and killing the industry because most of the cargoes are leaving the country.”
On his part, Director General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Muda Yusuf scored the Customs boss low on the ease of doing business and facilitation of trade.
According to him, “On the business climate perspective, things have not been easy for us at all because the focus of Customs is too much on revenue. They are too relegated in the ease of doing business to the background.
Particularly on the issue of arbitrary valuation, issues of classification and the problem of Customs operatives intercepting containers on the road. All these make things very difficult for business people.
“Trade facilitation is almost not on the agenda of Customs. Main agenda and the key performance indicator for Customs has always been revenue generation which is why not more attention is being given to ease of doing business and trade facilitation. There is too much focus on revenue generation and it is coming at a great cost to businesses,” he said.
The LCCI boss was also of the opinion that reformation of the Service under Ali has not recorded any remarkable progress as envisaged, noting that it would be more easier for an insider who has knowledge of Customs operations to reform it than “an outsider,” like Ali.
A retired customs officer, who pleaded that he did not want his name in print, said Ali has not achieved much in terms of discipline within the rank and file while corruption in the Service has risen to a larger scale.