Agents task new Customs boss on review of employment, promotion

As the new Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), retired Col. Hameed Ali officially took charge on Thursday, clearing agents and freight forwarders have set agenda for the former military administrator which they said if considered would boost other stakeholders and sector confidence in the NCS.

Top on their agenda was the need for the Customs boss to review employment and promotion carried out by the erstwhile Comptroller General, Dikko Abdulahi.

According to the stakeholders, most of the officers do not merit their positions.

Speaking with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY, an official of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarder (NAGAFF), Ugochukwu Nnadi said, “There is need for total overhaul of the Service because we are aware that there are so many promotions that are abnormal. Some people were promoted two, three steps ahead which I don’t think is ideal in a paramilitary agency. It is only in Customs that such a thing is happening. Let the Customs CG try the best he can to restructure the Customs and look at the area of revenue generation.”

Nnadi also implored the Customs Comptroller General to use his office to advise the government to consider reversing some policies including some commodities on the import prohibition list to help maximise revenue generation. He noted that restriction of importation of certain items into the country has caused more harm than good for the country.

“Items on our prohibition list is too much and this has led to diversion of our cargoes to other countries. The policy on agriculture which is affecting importation of rice and frozen poultry product is not favourable because our produce still cannot meet with local demand.

“The auto policy is also not favourable to the sector. For example, the ban on the age limit of vehicle has not stopped the vehicles from coming in. There is no type of vehicle that does not come into the country and they are all cleared and all the monies used in clearing them goes into the pocket of customs officers instead of going into the coffers of the government,” he said.

An agent operating at the PTML Customs Command, Ayuba Ari also alleged that some officers attached to the command were wearing ranks they do not merit.

He therefore called on the Customs boss to verify the certificate of such officers as according to him, most of them cannot even defend the rank they were wearing.

“Recently, the Controller of the command paraded the officers and warned them to always wear their rightful rank and to our surprise, some officers we often see wear a particular rank now have their ranks changed which means most of them are wearing fake ranks and they are there in the port,” he said

President, Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN), Frank Ukor said there was an urgent need for the Service to be sanitized including reviewing promotions of officers. According to him, there are lots of underhand dealings among the officers, which the new Customs Comptroller General needs to look into to achieve his mandate of restructuring the Service.

He described as fraudulent those whose employment and promotions do not follow due process. Ukor advised that officers who merited and have been duly promoted be allowed to enjoy their promotion without any form of witch-hunting.

“There are guidelines for employment and promotions. Any person that does not follow the guidelines or whose promotion did not follow due process, all the employment are fraudulent and if there are promotions that do not follow due process, they are all fraudulent.

“I will lend my support to the Service to sanitize those ones. But we would not want a situation where he will use that to witch-hunt officers. Any person that has merited it should be supported to enjoy his promotion and employment, “he said.

The Shippers’ Association Lagos State (SALS) on its part asked Ali to look into unreceipted payments made by shippers to Customs operatives.

President of the association, Jonathan Nicol said shippers pay a lot of money that are not receipted to officers during cargo clearance at the ports across the country.

“There is no consignment you clear that you do not pay money that cannot be receipted and I bet you if you have the kind of petition the President has on Customs alone you won’t blame him for the action he took.

“We believe the new CG will streamline anomalies in the system because we want a system where the Customs tariff will be respected and when you give people what you call an assessment from the desk of Customs, we don’t expect the same Customs to query their documents because why would they be making shippers pay for a document that will later be queried,” he said.

Nicol also urged stakeholders in the maritime industry to support the appointment of Col. Hammed Ali as the Customs Comptroller-General.

He said the array of petitions in the Presidency against the Nigeria Customs Service may have necessitated the appointment of an outsider to head the agency.

He said, “If you are a shipper, you will know that shippers in this country are greatly marginalised in the scheme of distribution. You bring in a container and you make certain estimate to use in clearing the container but the bottom line is the high duty you are charged by Customs that shippers end up quarrelling with Customs.

“Duty is either jacked up or they are not following the tariff or they put in the benchmark which is against the normal practice. So there is no shipper that will lift up its hands and begin to clap for Customs not because they are at the receiving end but because the system is bad.”

Nicol also stated that the NCS was not generating enough revenue for government because it was not properly managed.

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