Nigerian Customs Service: Citadel of Corruption

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PLSCOPE BY Eddy Odivwri    Eddy.Odivwri@thisdaylive.com

POLSCOPE By Eddy Odivwri

Those who are upbeat about the anti-corruption stance of the federal government may not have had any experience with the Nigerian Customs Service. Too often, we are carried away with the running belief in the public domain that the Nigeria Police Force is the headquarters of corruption. How wrong! Let such persons have a deal with the Nigerian Customs and he or she will understand that corruption comes in grades and degrees. Indeed, whoever has a deal with the Nigerian Customs will or should see the futility of fighting the malaise called corruption. It is wide and deep. A norm!

It is interesting to note that among all the revenue generating agencies of the Federal Government, the Nigerian Customs Service has been verily faithful in not only meeting its budgetary targets, but doing so, most times, before the end of the third quarter of every year.

What that tells us is that the Nigerian Customs is quite a fertile field for revenue generation. Indeed, if it could generate as much as N1.6 trillion in the year of the Pandemic (2020), then it really has the capacity to generate even N2 trillion if all leakages are blocked.

The temptation to argue that having generated that humongous sum, the agency should be left alone, is appreciated. However, some of the acts of Customs are indeed inhibitive to economic growth. By no means, I am not condemning their eagle eye in catching and exposing illicit and illegal importations like arms and drugs or smuggling (even though some people argue that it is when the importers are unable to “settle” that the case gets to NTA) .

Let me cite an example. A man imports cars from either the United States of America, Canada or other parts of Europe. Customs officials do the evaluation and assessment of the cars. It gives what the duty to be paid should be. The importer pays the duty, and all the many ancillary charges as demanded; not counting all the dozens of tipping points where the documents have to go through for approval. And when all the process is completed, the cars are released.

Then the car owner travels with one f the cars and the Customs officials on the Highway intercept the car, query the Customs duty paid, and either go ahead to demand for hefty bribes so as to let the car go, or they seize the car altogether, regardless of the fact that the Duty demanded by the Customs unit at the points of entry has been paid. The Highway Customs operatives argue that the duty paid was below what ought to have been paid. Pray, whose fault is that?

Did the importers determine how much they have to pay? Was it not the same Customs that did? If there is an underpayment, should the system, not the importer, be blamed and perhaps restructured ?

Are the Highway Customs officials not aware that their colleagues in the Ports had issued a clearance for the release of the car/s? Why do they (Highway Customs) have to constitute another illegal clearing points on the highway where they harass and harangue motorists?

Too often, they demand huge sums from owners of cars whether their Customs papers are genuine or not. They annoyingly argue that the Clearing Agents may have negotiated the duty to be paid with Customs officials (in what they describe as “Compromised Duty”—often used for damaged cars), and so when the correct duties are underpaid, the Highway Customs now demand that either the full payments are made or they are bribed heavily or the car/s get seized. That is tyranny! Was it Civil Defence officials that issued the clearance from the Ports as not to be respected by the Customs on the Highways? Are there two or more Customs operational standards?

Perhaps one of the major tasks before Col Hameed Ali (retd), the Comptroller General of Customs (who refused to wear uniform) is to harmonise the operations of Customs officials in such a way that any good or consignment genuinely cleared (emphasis on genuinely cleared) by any unit of the Nigerian Customs should be respected and thus spared from undue harassment from highway Customs officials who just want to drink from the cup of corruption.

4.2 Million British Pounds and the Orogun Polytechnic Project

By Eddy Odivwri

Last Tuesday, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami announced that it had secured the consent of the British government to release the sum of 4.2 million pounds stolen by former governor of Delta State, James Ibori. The money was said to have been recovered from friends and family members of Ibori.

Malami went ahead to sign an MoU with the British government which insisted that the funds to be repatriated in two weeks, must be tied to visible projects. We reserve, for another day, the issue of how our commonwealth ended up in Britain.

In his skewed wisdom, Malami said the funds will be used to complete the second Niger bridge (in the south east), Abuja– Kaduna highway (in the Northwest) and Lagos –Ibadan highway (in the south west), arguing that the crime committed was a federal crime and that the Federal Government it was that had been in the groove of repatriating the said loot from the UK, therefore it is the Federal Government and not Delta State that owns the money. So, Mr Malami, if the crime was federal, does that make the money so stolen also federal money? How can money stolen from Delta State treasury suddenly become Federal money? Was Ibori operating the Federal reserve? What kind of justice minister is Malami who is desperate to unjustly rob the people of Delta of their rightful resource? If the argument is that Delta State government should pay the cost of all the arbitration and expenses incurred by the federal government in the process of recovering the said money, then that will make sense. But to say that the money so stolen from the Delta treasury to the UK, is now a property of the Federal Government is a clear case of standing justice on its head. Such lousy arguments could spark regional agitation. Malami is trying to reap from where he did not sow.

But did Mr Malami forget that there is a precedence? Was the money (over Five Million Pounds) stolen by late governor of Bayelsa State, DSP Alamyeseigha not returned to Bayelsa State government in 2012 from the same UK government? Where was Malami then?

But if that is not bad enough, Mr Malami robs the injustice on the face of the people of Delta by allocating the money to projects clearly away from Delta. Not even any state in the South south geo-political zone benefited. What kind of judgement is that? Are there no federal unfinished projects in Delta where the money could have been deployed?

In case Mr Malami does not know, the Federal Government has just approved the establishment of Federal Polytechnic in Orogun, Ughelli North LGA, the very heart of Delta State. Pray, that amount, (put at over N2billion) is timeously useful to commence the building of the Orogun Polytechnic. It is gratifying that the Delta State government has vowed to challenge Malami at the Supreme Court. If the Minister of Justice lacks enough sense of justice, the Supreme Court will not.

What is Aisha Buhari Doing in Dubai?

By Eddy Odivwri

It is a good thing that we had International Women’s Day last Monday. I look forward to more of such opportunities for women

Why? Are you a woman?

Not exactly. At least on such days, we can be sure to hear from our dear First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari. Or didn’t you hear her speak from Dubai last Monday, condemning the continuous abduction of students in the North west? I am looking forward to hearing from her again on Sunday.

Sunday? Why Sunday?

That will be Mothering Sunday. And as the

First Lady of the nation and herself a proud mother, I am sure she will have soothing words for Nigerian mothers.

Em, em, eh… Why is she speaking from Dubai and not from Aso Rock these days? Has she relocated to the United Arab Emirates?

I think she is on holidays.

Eddy Odivwri

 

Since you know that she is on holidays, you might as well have details of her vacation. It is a long time that she has not only been quiet in the public domain, she has not been seen around for quite some time. And Nigerians are getting worried that their First lady has been unseen for so long, too long.

She is a private citizen. Nigerians only voted for her husband, Mr President. And he has been around carrying out his duties diligently, even if many of them are done virtually these days.

Yes, she is a private citizen, but she is a prominent member of the First Family. She is a public votary in a way. And don’t forget that all those her aides here and there are paid by tax payers’ money. So, let me say she is a quasi private citizen

Whether quasi or whatever you call her, the fact remains that Nigerians did not vote for her. She does not owe Nigerians any duty per se. So if she decides to hibernate in far away Dubai, it is within her liberty and right..

You are talking like a one-way driver. Do you not know that the place of a woman is in the abode of her husband? And Madam’s husband is in Aso Rock, what is she doing in the desert land of Dubai? . Ok, let me ask you: Now that she is ensconced in the glitz and grit of Dubai, who will be Mr President’s stakeholder in the ”oza room” , if you know what I mean?

Look, focus on important things. We ae struggling with how to contain bandits and wide scale insecurity in the country plus how to bring down inflationary rates, and you are here talking about “other room” affairs. By the way, did you hear Mr President complain?

Ahhhhh, He doesn’t have to complain. In any case, even if he complains, would you hear?

I think you should strictly mind your business. Have you forgotten that one of the daughters of the First lady is happily married and lives in Dubai? So, what is wrong in Madam going to oversee how her daughter is settling down in the commercial Arab country?

Hmmmm. Did you confirm if Madam did not go for Omugwor? Or could it be that Madam was tired of hearing the loud generator noise whenever there is power cut?

I have told you to mind your business. Who told you that they often suffer power cut in Aso Rock? Don’t you know that the Presidential Villa enjoys special power connection?

Awwww. Don’t be deceived, NEPA or whatever it is now called, is no respecter of person or place.

So, when is the First Lady coming back to resume her supportive in-house activist role?

How can I Know? Perhaps when election is near, when she’d need to moblise the womenfolk. But I am not sure she’d be keen on that this time around, since Mr President will not be contesting again. In any case, whatever she wants to do or say can be done or said through Tweeter. Don’t forget this is a digital age. And the First Lady is actively digitalized

But some people say that the First Lady actually left the scene because the grip of the cabal in the government has not loosened, despite the death of the former Chief of staff, Abba Kyari. Those who know say she is tired of in-house shoves and pushes, especially as she is not being deferred to by Mr President.

I think people should be charitable in their comments. Who said she is not being deferred to? Was she not the author of the recent appointment of Brig Gen Buba Marwa as the Chairman of the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA)? Was it not the Adamawa connection that was activated? In any case, as the First Lady, she should be seen and not necessarily heard.

Stop That. You want a passive First Lady? Not this one! She is active and articulate and even expressive of her feeling regardless of whose ox is gored.

The trouble now is that we do not know whether her temporary relocation is a kind of protest or whether indeed she is having a normal rest

This is typical busy-body syndrome. How is it your business whether she is having a normal or abnormal rest? You talk about protesting? What would she be protesting? Is she a labour leader

You do not know. You do not even understand that all that glitters is not gold. Let me tell you, even in such high places, so much water passes under the bridge. And until you look closely, you will not understand the undercurrents.

And that is the issue: why do you have to look closely? Does that put food on your table?

For Heaven’s sake, leave the First Lady alone. You did not vote for her. She does not owe you any explanation about her whereabouts. If anybody is complaining it should be her husband. And that will end as domestic grumble, not national discourse.

You exhibit your naivety with so much passion. You do not know that the affairs of the First family is a national affair? Are they not public votaries? Why was it such an issue when their son, Yusuf, had motorbike accident in December 2017? Was he the only one who had motorbike accident at the time?

Whether they like it or not, the affairs of the First family remains a public affair which is of great interest to the entire citizens, be they the elite or the plebeians .