Udora Orizu in Abuja
The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Ahmadu Ali, has expressed the agency’s difficulty in containing the smuggling of arms into the country, “because members of the border communities are protecting the smugglers and attacking and killing NCS officers.
Ali made the disclosure yesterday while responding to questions during the agency’s 2021 budget consideration session organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Customs.
The Custom boss, while saying that no nation has been able to stop arms smuggling, however, opined that to curtail the menace, other agencies and people in the border communities must help the Customs.
According to him, “Our biggest problem with stopping arms smuggling is that border communities are ganging up against us, killing us and burning our vehicles. They gang up to fight us, because they think the bandits (who smuggle arms) are more important to their lives than us. I understand there are complaints that how can Customs officers not stop this. But we cannot effectively police borders. We can only make efforts through the third tier to curtail smuggling. We need other agencies and the communities to help us. Until that is done, Customs is willing to do what it can to stop that.”
Meanwhile, the lawmakers were provoked when Ali, in the course of his presentation, said only about N17 million has been spent from the N13 billion employment budget made available to the Service from 2018 to 2020, as the Service has not recruited personnel since 2004.
He said: “As for recruitment, I want to say that it is only the president that can decide. It is not within our purview to do that. If we take the issue to the president, he will ask if we have enough resources to pay the people we are going to recruit. We must convince him that we have the funds to pay them. And the committee must know that NCS has had 17 years without recruitment.’’
The CG also refuted claims that the agency was involved in budget manipulations, insisting that some budget provisions regarding purchases of vehicles and other capital projects were rolled over to other years because the projects attached to them were either delayed or not approved by the Bureau for Public Procurement.