Customs officers are crooks, says Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun 

Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, came hard on Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) officials yesterday describing them as “cohesive crooks hard to break”.

While speaking when she received members of the Senate Committee on Finance who were on oversight visit to the Ministry in Abuja yesterday, Adeosun said corruption in Customs and other revenue generating agencies was hampering government’s revenue generation drive.

To this end, she solicited an urgent intervention of the National Assembly in curbing the loopholes and excessive leakage not only in the revenue sourcing agencies but also all other Federal Government’s agencies, saying they were “stinking of corruption”.

She disclosing that the the moment, Customs has no scanners except the one at Idiroko.

“On the issue of Customs, we are actually working very closely with them, they have some challenges. The general contraption in the economy has really affected their level of inputs – forex scarcity and so on.

“And also, they have some leakages which we are working with them to try and block. Largely, all their scanners are not working except the one in Idiroko.

“We have no working scanner in Nigeria, just one working for the whole country which means a lot of manual discretion in the assessment of Customs and of course, that brings in a lot of leakages.

“We’re are working with them now with Sovereign Wealth Authority to invest, to bring in back the scanners. But the scanners are in millions of dollars.

“Unfortunately, the one we had was given to a politician to maintain and he didn’t maintain them. We even even got in touch with the manufacturers but was told that the person forced them to write it off.

“We are going to work with them to try to get this single window so that we can improve. We are the only country, even Ghana has a single window and when they implemented that, their Customs revenue went up about sixty percent. So we are trying to implement it in conjunction with the Sovereign Wealth Authority because we have to look for money. Customs doesn’t have money.

“Colonel Hamid Ali is trying his best to try and instil some discipline but being an outsider in an insider’s place, is a difficult job. In fact, we have an incident, we were there together. There was one transaction they blocked since February until I realised what their issue was and it took us less than ten minutes to unlock it. They are a very cohesive crook and very difficult to break but we’ll work more on that,” she added.

Adeosun’s tirade came in response to earlier comments by members of the committee, berating the Minister for what they described as her “poor handling of agencies under her watch, resulting in monumental leakage and loopholes”.

Senator Hope Uzodinma, a member of the committee and Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs said, “There are a lot of drained pipes and leakages in the Customs, I don’t think that the Ministry under your watch has given sufficient attention to the Customs in particular.”

It would be recalled that no fewer that 17 junior and 29 senior Customs officers were dismissed recently for various acts of corruption and gross misconduct.

She also told the committee that government would maintain its over N6trillion annual budget because it spends over N3 trillion out of the budget sum on salaries, pension and debt services , leaving a paltry amount for capital projects.

She insisted that the country would be gambling with the figure for now as it can not go below it anymore in the face of high expectations from its citizens.

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